Goblinoid Games has a successful campaign with this one, and there is still a LITTLE time to back it. Two fellows from the company answer some questions about their game.
From the Kickstarter;
A magic noir Pacesetter game of intrigue between powerful Maji of competing Towers.
I missed the Pacesetter System when it was new. Can you give me a description of it?
DP: The Pacesetter System was designed by some folks who left TSR in the early 80s to form Pacesetter Ltd. It was used in their rpgs, including CHILL, Timemaster, Star Ace, and, in simplified form, SANDMAN. At and around that time there were a few different “chart based” games from different companies, but in my opinion the Pacesetter one is the best and most innovative.
Why is it the best? First I’ll explain a bit about the system in general. At its heart the Pacesetter System is really just a percentile system. So in that sense anyone who is familiar with other percentile systems is on fairly common ground in understanding how it works. The difference comes in when you are dealing with different sorts of “checks,” rolls to see whether a skill or attack is successful, for example. General checks are like other systems, just roll your percentage or lower to succeed. A specific check is when you use the chart, when a result isn’t simply succeed/fail but can have ranges of success. The beauty of the chart is that it also can be used to scale damage effects, difficulty of acts, lethality of attacks, poisons, disease, and a whole bunch of other things. Once you grok the table it is actually very elegant, and in my opinion the most innovative of any of the chart systems. In short, the reason I think it is the “best” is because there is so much “simple complexity” built in, that as a universal system it can give you about everything you need if you want a range of simple to gritty. As the referee you can use the table as little or as much as you want, and when you understand it you can use it on the fly to decide outcomes.
So, Majus is Magic Noir. If you were to do a mash-up of two movies that would come closest to the themes or tone or plot of the game, what would those movies be? Can you explain?
MC: You don’t need to mash-up two movies to best understand the central themes and plots of MAJUS since there’s a single film that sums those up perfectly: The Maltese Falcon. One of the masterpieces of film noir, The Maltese Falcon covers all the ground I tried to touch upon when writing the game. It has shadowy players, heroes with questionable moral compasses, double-crosses, and a valuable artifact several parties are contesting for. Just replace the statue with a magical artifact and recast Sydney Greenstreet and Bogart as Maji, and you’re good to go!
Can you give me a playlist of five songs that would be a perfect mood warm-up for a session of Majus?
MC: Your mileage will vary on this one, depending on what sort of campaign you’re running, but here’s what leaps to mind based on the themes I’ve explored with MAJUS:
“Got My Mojo Workin’ (But It Just Won’t Work on You) by Ann Cole & The Suburbans
“Season of the Witch” by Donovan
“Twilight Zone” by Golden Earring
“Flaming Telepaths” and “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” by Blue Öyster Cult
In a pinch, I’d just throw on BOC’s concept album “Imaginos” and run from there.
Tell me about the Magi? The Skein?
MC: The Maji are modern day workers of magic who claim a common ancestry with the priest-kings of ancient Sumer. They’ve been practicing their arts in the shadows of humanity since the dawn of civilization, even to the point of guiding the fate of human development. At one time, they may have had lofty goals about the advancement and elevation of humankind, but that’s pretty much taken a backseat to their daily goals of survival and besting their rivals in the Old Game. Central to a Majus’ life is the Skein, which can be described loosely as a mystical point of contention for the Maji. Most Maji seek to protect, control or destroy the Skein, depending on their personal goals or those of the cabal (otherwise known as a Tower) they serve.
MAJUS’ strength as a game is that what the Skein actually is and its purpose is left to the game master to decide. That way, each MAJUS campaign can be custom tailored to what sort of stories the group wants to explore with the system. Several examples of what the Skein could be are provided in the rulebook. In one game, the Skein might be a potent sorcerous bloodline the PCs are trying to defend or destroy, while in another campaign it’s a network of magical sites spread across the globe that need discovering, protecting, or pillaging to advance the PCs’ goals. In short, the Skein can be whatever the game master and the players want it to be based on the game they want to play with MAJUS.
What is the Old Game?
MC: Otherwise known as the Mehen, the Old Game is the term Maji use to describe the various maneuvers and intrigues used in the contest for the Skein. The Old Game covers everything from bribing a doorman to gain access to a rival Maji’s apartment building, to bargaining with conjured spirits, to gun battles down at the docks, to sorcerous curses thrown at rivals in the night. The thing about the Mehen is that, once you start playing, it’s nearly impossible to stop since you’re making enemies from your first tentative gambit. This life of constant contention and scheming wears heavily on a lot of Maji, leading to a state of weariness and despair that’s one of the central themes in film noir and therefore, MAJUS the game. Paranoia is rife amongst the Maji and one’s allies might not be what they seem in the Old Game. Players who love to create intricate schemes are going to enjoy the sort of possibilities the Mehen offers.
What do players play in the game? Do?
MC: Much like the Skein, what the players are and do in a MAJUS campaign is left up to the game master and group to decide. In one campaign, the PCs might be minor Maji working for a specific Tower, acting as that cabal’s lowly agents in whatever capacity their masters require, be it dealing with supernatural threats, acquiring potent relics, or eliminating potential threats. In another campaign, the PCs could be free agents looking to build their own power bloc against their rivals. What the Skein is in a campaign also greatly influences the tone of a MAJUS campaign. Depending on what Skein option the game master decides to use, the PCs could be globe-travelling explorers seeking out hidden mystical sites or objects, while in another game they might never leave their hometown and spend the game trying to uncover and foil the plots of their rivals to unseat the PCs from their own tentative positions of power in the magical underworld. And the Maji aren’t limited to Earth in their exploits, either. The Astral Plane and its various sub-regions and the entities therein are a Maji’s playground as well.
Can you complete this analogy? Majus is to ___________ as _____________ is to _____________. Why?
MC: MAJUS is the Dungeons & Dragons as John Constantine is to Gandalf. Seriously, if you really want to grasp what life is like for a Majus, pick up any of the trade paperbacks of DC’s “Hellblazer” series. They really convey what the daily life and hazards are like for a Majus and played a large role in developing the game. If you’re going to lift ideas, you can’t go wrong getting inspiration from Allan Moore, Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Brian Azzarello, Grant Morrison, and Neil Gaiman.
You have 10 seconds to pitch your game. How do you sell it?
MC: You’re Harry Dresden, Philip Marlowe, John Constantine, and Rick Deckard rolled into one, fighting an ancient battle across the sets of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “The Wicker Man (the good version),” “Cast a Deadly Spell,” and “Lord of Illusions.” You’ve got a grimoire in one hand and a smoking .45 in the other. And then Leonard Nimoy shows up with every critter and myth from “In Search of…” to further complicate matters.
How can we find out more about Majus and the Pacesetter system?
DP: Michael Curtis has posted a series on his blog about MAJUS (links below). I have a couple blog of posts that go into more detail about the Pacesetter System (links below). In addition, people can drop by the forums to ask for help from the community
More about MAJUS
A look at the Skein
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