Sunday, March 11, 2018

Elthos RPG - Griswaldia Campaign - Game #2


Three members of the Miller clan, Shnoggle Miller, JB Miller, and Emitt Snow, having rescued Princess Gwyn from the hands of the monstrous Satyr and blue vested dwarf, found themselves whisked out to sea on the magical skiff.  It's beautiful blue black sails unfurled in the wind of their own accord, and as they sailed ever more swiftly out into the Churning Depths, the adventurers watched the Satyr lift his dwarven master onto his shoulder and lope with great speed into the hills south of Bonoville village.  Doubtless the villainous duo decided to flee the King's Knights who were racing on horseback down from Bonovilla to rescue the Princess.

Having decided not to risk jumping into the water to swim the 200 feet to shore, they began to explore the boat while JB read her Book of Lore.  In it she learned that magical boats are often controlled by some magical item, and so they began to explore the boat's cabin to see if they could find such a device as might give them control of the boat.  Inside, they found a bed, with a night table, a  desk with two drawers, one locked, a cabinet, and a locked wooden chest.  The cabin was lit by a single candle glowing with a purple light, and when they looked more carefully saw that the candle was resting on a bed of amethyst crystals.  They tried opening the locked chest and the desk drawer but to no avail.

At this point Princess Gwyn revealed that she had pilfered a small multi-faceted skeleton key from the dwarf while he struggled to get her into the cabin, and with this she was able to open the door.  They tried the key on the chest first. In it they found coins of silver and gold, jeweled necklaces and pearl bracelets.  JB claimed the treasure for herself, and an argument ensued.  Various hard words passed between the heroes over this, but in the end they agreed to share the treasure fairly at the end of the adventure.  The dwarf would doubtlessly been delighted if they fought with each other over the treasure and sank the boat!  Calmer minds prevailed.

The seas became rough beneath the darkening storm clouds.  While they kept a lookout on the cabin roof, and on both sides of the boat, they spied a huge mountain island protruding starkly from the glowering waters.  Lightning flashed in the sky as they spotted a gigantic sea monster engaged in epic combat with another monster of the deep.  The battle of the giant sea monsters swept the skiff into a whirlpool, spinning the boat around many times before it righted itself.  

Inside the cabin, meanwhile, things were as calm as if the boat were sitting in a port on a quiet sunny day.  It was the magic of the vessel that made the cabin feel still and quiet, they realized. Fearing their presence on the deck was attracting the sea monsters, they all descended into the cabin and shut the door.  Eager to see what was transpiring outside, they tore away the tapestries from the walls and discovered the port holes.  Out of these they peered into the ever flashing darkness.  They watched as the towering mountain island passed away in the night along the port side of the ship.  It was a distant silhouette but so steep where the cliffs and stark its appearance they didn't regret not landing there.  And on the storm raged.  

Later they spotted another island head of them, and to this island the ship sailed itself, despite the tempest and the wildly swirling currents.  As they gained on the island they noticed that the lamp began to glow more richly with purple light, and as the ship came to shore, the purple light filled the cabin, and even the candle's flame flickered with a plum colored flame.  The princess sat sadly on the edge of the bed and began to cry.  Schnoggle took pity on her and said some comforting words about how they would most certainly bring her back home as soon as they were able.

"Stop your crying," demanded JB.  "Buck up and make the best of it."  She was trying to get the princess to snap out of her malaise and took that tack believing that if they coddled the princess it would only deepen her gloom and render the girl useless to herself or anyone else.  Alas, the poor princess continued softly sobbing and laid herself down on the bed.

The boat maneuvered itself through barrier reef and the dangerous shoals into a small harbor along the western flank of the island. JB cast her spell and flew into the twilight sky.  The island was about three miles long, and narrow.  As she flew the sun set in such a way as to send rays of red light skimming along the bottom clouds of the storm, illuminating the island in a gorgeous glow.  The entire island was circled by a beach if white sands, and dividing the island in two was a long line of mountainous ridges and cliffs, along the sides of which a vast dark jungle teaming with giant reptiles, enormous birds, giant apes, chattering monkeys and giant insects hung like a vast green drape.  The sounds the wild creatures made became a frightful and wild cacophony.  

At the top of one of the ridges a flash of purple light caught JB's eye.  She flew to it and found that there were a series of table sized amethyst crystals protruding out of the ground gleaming brilliantly in the dying rays of the sun.  JB gave each of them a name.  "George, Harry, Fred, and you're Bob", she said to each in its turn.  And then the sun set, and night began to descend.  JB, not wishing to waste any of her magic power, flew to the northern tip of the island where she found a volcanic crater, spewing smoke and boiling with lava deep within.  There she spotted another ridge of red crystals glowing in the lava's light.  She gave each of those a name as well.  "You are Ted, and Harold, and Tom and Wilber", she proclaimed.  And with that she realized several hours had gone by and it was time to return to the boat.  Though it was very dark, she was able to spot the boat from high up, following its purple glow down to the deck.  She entered, quite pleased with herself, and announced that she had named the Island "Joe-Bob-Bill-Fred-Jake Island", and told them about the giant crystals and the volcano, and claimed all the gems on the island as her own.  "Finder's keepers," she said with great conviction.  No one argued with her about it.

They decided to rest and so JB and the Princess shared the bed, while Schnoggle slept on the cabin floor.  Emitt, assigned to the first watch, was sitting on the deck when he heard the sound of splashing in the water near the boat.  Then another sound of water surging.  A few minutes later he heard more splashing on the other side.   In the next few minutes the boat was surrounded by sounds from the water, and a enormous bellowing crocodile roars filled the air.  Emitt quickly descended into the cabin and shut the door.  They watched through the port holes as giant lizards writhed over the boat, at times covering the round windows with enormous claws, giant snake heads with huge glaring eyes, and slithering skins covered with bejeweled designs.  All that night serpents, lizards, and giant insects swarmed the boat making dreadful sounds.  But inside the cabin, the party felt quite safe, and so they fell asleep after a time and woke up in the morning.

As the sun shed warming rays over the sea, JB stood on the deck with Emitt and Schnoggle.  There was no sign of the reptilian invaders.  Other than the island, there was no land anywhere as far as the eye could see from horizon to horizon.  

A good night's sleep had restored JB's mystic energies, and so she wished to fly off to see if she could discover any hint of civilization on this lonely and wild island in the midst of the sea.  And as she prepared to go, the others thought to try to unfurl the sail, and see if they could sail the boat.  But this seemed to them to be futile.  The boat was very resistant to these efforts.  When they would try to loosen the ropes from the cleats they found the rope turned stiff.  And when they tried to pull the rigging, it would hardly budge.  It seemed the boat simply had no intention of letting itself be sailed away from the strange, wild, and frightening Joe-Bob-Bill-Fred-Jake Island.  

And that was were we left the adventurers that day.

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.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Sphinx of the Orphic Spheres

I wonder ... what kind of culture do the Sphinxes have, and what personality might this Sphinx possess...? She looks thoughtful and contemplative. But the Sphinx that met Oedipus seemed of an entirely different sort of culture and had a very different personality than Sophia. Sphinxes are creatures of Chaos by virtue of the unnatural juxtaposition of their animal aspects, so I imagine they are likely to be highly variable, volatile, and even potentially malevolent. And sometimes they are like Sophia Orphiana; serene and luminous.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Wonder vs Weird - Further Thoughts

This is a response to Wonder vs Weird by David Rollins. I recommend reading his post before continuing with mine as his is the basis for this this post.

Point 1 - The Zeitgeist of Weird

I agree with David in so far as wonder is far more inspiring than weird. But which isn't to say that weird doesn't have it's place. It does. But that place is no less important than wonder in a literary or game world. I think both are important. In fact I feel they can offset one another in the same world. Sometimes you have wonder, sometimes you have weird.

But first I should state what I think the difference is, and where on this I diverge a bit from David's point of view.

Wonder, to my mind, is something that invokes awe, and also inspiration. Wonder has something magical and heavenly about it. It isn't the same thing as Awe, which can be either wondrous or frightful. Wonder connotes the idea of something beyond human ken, something higher and more beautiful than we believed possible. Galadriel inspires wonder. Sauron inspires awe and dread, but not wonder. Wonder is about inspiration.

Wierd, on the other hand, is where I somewhat part from David. Regarding the weird, he says "...[they] built their world into the shadows of the one we have here. That's the foundation of the weird. It disrupts expectations instead of creating new ones. It changes and tears at the rules and assumptions. It also tends to be terrible in some way. The weird revels in the tension it creates but it needs the mundane as a contrast. Tension needs the norm to pull against."

To my mind, that is not usually what I mean, exactly, by weird. The word originally comes from before the 900's AD, and is a Middle English noun whose northern form was "wird", and in Old English "wyrd". It's original meaning was "Fate or Destiny", and eventually became associated to witchcraft in Scottish parlance, and wound it's way to become the inspiration for Macbeth's three weird sisters. The modern sense it's meaning has evolved to suggest something strange or uncanny. But for me weird connotes something otherworldly, and from the more unpleasant side of the Other World. Something foreboding, dark, and at it's core frightfully wrong or harmful. (For those wondering why I use wyrde in my vbwyrde appellation on social media, it's origin relates to my criticism of Visual Basic as a programming language. Nuff said on that.)

And so in some sense I agree with David in that focusing RPG worlds towards the weird is akin to focusing them towards the unpleasant. Yes, that I agree with. Many Worlds these days really present very unpleasant visions, and ones in which Wonder is actually being actively suppressed. I don't think this is a coincidence or simply out of laziness because weird is easier, however. I think this is a reaction to the times we live in and represents the psychological framework in which authors are now conceiving their visions, which then get transcribed into their Worlds. This is generally true across all art mediums. We are looking at a world that is rapidly changing, and that change is happening at an ever accelerating, or one might say exponential rate. Many of these changes are heading in directions that are profoundly disturbing, and even frightening. And when we look to those we have entrusted with the levers of power, those who are, one would hope, dedicated to producing good outcomes rather than horrific ones, ... well, it seems those in charge are either disappointing, or downright disastrous. And so the potential for horrific outcomes appears to be very high. I won't go into the reasons why I think this is happening in this post, but let's just take it that we're all operating in an atmosphere of extreme uncertainty and anxiety.

Because of that, people are gravitating towards the weird. Somehow perhaps we take some comfort in looking at horror in all it's dreadful splendor in fantasy worlds so that when we compare it to the current state of our own things don't look quite so bad. That may be what is underlying our fascination with weird worlds at this point. And conversely, when we encounter wonder, it may be that our gut reaction is to scoff and say "but this kind of thing never happens! We don't get to experience wonder anymore because look at the real world - it's a nightmare and wonder is just an illusion and useless, and worse than useless... it is keeping us from focusing on The Horror, which is where reality is heading!" And so for this reason, we may look at things of Wonder and dismiss them as "stupid fantasy", and look at things of the weird and feel that "this is real somehow". And so the downward spiral seems to go.

When archaeologists of the future look at the output of the creative arts in our age and contrast it to former ages, they may be intrigued by how very dark and frightful a very large proportion of our artwork turns out to be at this point. And this is of course also reflected in our RPG worlds, and what happens to be popular these days, and unpopular. Naturally, creators are also going to want to follow the herd, as well as lead it (it's a self-perpetuating cycle, and usually continues until the tides of emotion shift again). So I feel that this focus on the weird in RPG worlds is not a product of lazy design. It's much deeper, and more foreboding than that. It is a direct reflection of our social zeitgeist. We have become weird, and we've made that both an ever descending spiral and a cultural self-fulfilling prophesy.

So I'm not saying that we're wrong for reflecting our anxiety in our art. I think it is logical, germane, cathartic, necessary, and probably beneficial for us to do so to some degree. I'm just regretting that we're in the position to have such anxiety to begin with.

Point 2 - RPG Worlds / Setting Design

David comments, "The little products that snag ENnies and get talked about with such passion online are the ones that present worlds with new rules that create a whole new set of expectations through play. A few examples that spring to mind are A Red and Pleasant Land, Yoon Suin, and Veins of the Earth. All three of these present new worlds."

I think this is an important point. As you may know I'm working on a World Building utility to help Gamesmasters create their own Worlds. It comes with a core framework of rules that remain consistent from World to World, but allows individual Worlds to have their own "internal rules" as well. The Internal Rules are a result of how the GMs define their World's skills, and mystic powers, and to some degree weapons, armors, and equipment. So the underlying core rules include mechanics like The General Resolution Matrix which pits Skill Level vs Difficulty Level in all cases, but the individual Internal Rules allow for great variation in terms of how the individual worlds work at the details level. A common set of core rules, and potentially infinite variation on individual rules for Skills, and such.

The reason I think this is useful is because it gives World Creators a common framework for building the thing that they really wish to express ... the vision of their World's Settings. I think this is a fulfillment of the original goal of RPGs when D&D first came out. There was a single rules system which was designed with the idea that GMs would go ahead and create a myriad of settings based on the basic rules framework. But of course, the TSR Business Model actually prohibited that laudable goal by forcing the publication of new rules books every few years, rather than solidifying the common central rules into a simpler more flexible and generic system on which any kind of worlds could be suspended. Instead of heading in the direction of simplicity and generality, in other words, it headed in the opposite direction of minutia, details and complexity. This was a result of the Business Model that said "we sell rules books". It was inevitable, and from my point of view regrettable.

So instead, I wanted to create a rules system, and a computer application, that would help GMs to create their own worlds, but do so on the foundation of a common framework of simplified generic rules. On top of that GMs can add their own "Internal Rules" so that no worlds would be exactly the same, and players can always be surprised, but characters from every world could easily transport between them. It would also save everyone from having to learn a new mechanics system for every World they want to visit.

The reason for this is to take the burden of having to reinvent new rules for every World off of the World Creator's shoulders. It's a lot to ask to have a creative vision, but then also have to reinvent the rules mechanics wheel every single game. The play testing that has to go into it, the mechanics innovations, the layouts and designs, and all of that... it's a huge amount of effort for someone who really just wants to express a World Vision that inspires wonder, or weirdly terrifies us. For me, that's really want I want to focus on as a World Creator. I assume I'm not the only one.

So there is the Mythos Machine to hopefully help with that, in case my hunch is right and there are other GMs out there who would like to simply focus on World Creation most, and rules and mechanics design to a much lesser degree. Those who also would like to participate in the creation of a galaxy of RPG Worlds by which they can share materials and inspire one another. So, if you happen to think this is may be good idea, then please trot on over to and take a poke around. If you have questions, you can find me on discord at the Elthos RPG Server. The Mythos Machine is currently in Free Open Beta at so please feel free to help with the last round of Beta Testing before we go live. I think it's a fun and useful system and you might think so too.

Ok that's probably enough for one post. It's already too long as it is. I do have more to say on different topics related to David's post, but I think I should save those for a Part II if I can get time to swing back around on this. I really enjoyed his commentary and found it very thought provoking. I'll try to get back to it again and finish my ruminations next time.