When you sit down to play a tabletop RPG, your initial thought is on what character you are going to play. After that you think about who you are playing with, what characters they are playing, and how your characters will interact. Over the series of a campaign, your bonds with the other characters become almost more important than whatever the game designer can throw at you. What happens, though, if you take away the stability of a static party? What if you make a campaign where the world progresses every game, regardless of whether you are at the table or not? I want to test this with a new campaign.
The MAZES System
Recently I learned that an RPG system I’d been keeping tabs on was released and available for purchase. MAZES was made by 9th Level Games. I first encountered it at Shushcon, where it was the Pharaoh’s Challenge game system. Recently I was able to get my hands on the completed, polished game system. Now comes the most troublesome part of any new system: coming up with the games to run on it..
Now, I know my friends. A lot of us have varying schedules, where the only potential timeslots to play games regularly are already taken up by other obligations or games. So, pulling together a group for an extended campaign? Seems nigh impossible.
This is why I’m really excited about MAZES, though. The system is designed primarily for one-shots, stories with beginnings and endings within one session. Returning characters may get a power up to some of their abilities, but there aren’t levels to worry about. It’s a system designed to focus you on what challenge is in front of you. If you want to drop a character between sessions and swap to a new one, so be it. Character died? It’s easy to make a new one of equivalent strength.
Still, there is an appeal in a continuing storyline that keeps your table coming back to play. Ergo, I want to be able to keep a persistent world setup for this campaign. In order to do so, I need a scenario in which characters are not tied to the plot. Who does the mission can’t matter as much as that it gets done.
The Key Elements
In order to pull this off, I’ve identified two key things I need to plan out for the world before I can introduce players to it.
An organization in charge of dolling out missions to adventurers, like a Guild, that all players can be part of.
In order for these random characters to come together, I need a baseline for them to work from while still allowing for characters to have individual backstories. Therefore, a guild or association of some sort will work wonders to keep players connected and explain why they are there. However, it still leaves room for backstory to come out in why they are in the guild.
Some overarching threat or goal that gets players interested in coming back as a variety of characters.
If players aren’t coming to the table to play their character in particular, I need another reason for them to keep coming back for more. Elements like recurring characters and quest items the guild hands out can be used to guide characters between sessions and keep a sense of continuity. Beyond that, though, there needs to be something more. I could go about this in two ways. An overarching “darkness” will add an element of mystery and threat players can aim towards thwarting. On the other hand, a goal for the guild will create a lighter atmosphere. These could be alternated in in arcs, as well, to keep the tone varied. While I don’t need this ironed out completely before I start, having a couple ideas will help me set the groundwork early on.
I’m working hard on ironing out all the details of this future campaign so I can get it rolling. The intent is for this to be a recorded campaign for podcasting purposes, so stay tuned for future details! And, if you are going to Shushcon in March, look for me on the schedule! I’ll be running three MAZES sessions at the con using elements prepped for this campaign.