Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More About MAJUS

There have been a few questions floating around about Goblinoid Games’ new Pacesetter System game, MAJUS. Since I’m extremely well-qualified to answer them and because playing coy doesn’t help the game get funded, I’ve put together this handy primer on what to expect while you’re expecting MAJUS to fund. Hopefully, it’ll also help those of you currently on the fence to make the plunge and throw some money at the project to get us across the finish line.

What’s the Kickstarter for?

Primarily, the Kickstarter campaign is to raise money to pay for the art and final layout of the book. The rules are 100% written and play tested, so there’s no waiting on the actual game itself to be completed. The art for MAJUS is being done by Mark Allen, whose work appears in numerous other gaming supplements (including Realms of Crawling Chaos by Goblinoid Games). You can check out his website here if you’re unacquainted with Mark’s work.

What time period is MAJUS set in?

By default, MAJUS is set in the modern world, but the CM is not limited to the 21st century when creating the campaign. Although MAJUS is billed as a “magic noir” game, implying it takes place during the 1940s and 1950s, the heyday of film noir, it’d be more accurate to call it a “neo-noir” setting. However, since “neo-noir” is less recognizable than “noir” amongst the general population, I billed the game as “magic noir.” Also, you could roughly translate “magic noir” as “black magic,” which isn’t a bad way to sell an urban fantasy RPG featuring sorcerers with questionable moral compasses.

Despite the modern setting, there’s nothing preventing you from running MAJUS in any time period of your liking. The Old Game between Maji has been ongoing since the days of ancient Sumeria and the game rules contain mechanics for an array of skills and weapons ranging from the archaic to the futuristic. Additionally, powerful Maji are able to project themselves backwards in time to previous incarnations, allowing for both one-off and ongoing adventures in distant epochs. If you want to rub shoulders with Da Vinci or fight Nazi magicians in the ruins of WWII Berlin, MAJUS allows you to do so.

MAJUS is a game about magicians, so how does magic work?

I had a heck of a good time researching “real world” magic systems and school when writing MAJUS. Borders Books and Music was shutting its doors during the design period and I helped clear out my local store’s New Age and Occult section of reference material.

In MAJUS, there are a number of magical paths known as “adits” and each is a three-tiered system of spells. At the lowest level, minor effects are possible, but with study, greater and more impressive results occur. There are twelve adits to choose from in MAJUS, ranging from “animagic” (the power to influence animals via mystical means) to “weather control,” with adits such as “blessing,” “hexing,” “glamour,” “counterspelling,” “summoning” and “warding” in between.

Magic is powerful, but low-key in MAJUS, and you won’t find a lot of fireballs or flying Maji around. Spell casting takes a bit of time, requires props and tools, and you’ll find variables like knowing your target’s true name or possessing something important to him helps the spell casting process. However, Maji are able to “hang” spells, allowing them to begin the mystical process prior to events that might benefit from magical assistance and then complete the spell when needed to produce nearly instantaneous results. The number of hanging spells a Maji can have ready at one time is dependent on his level of magical training and experience.

Besides the magical adits, Maji also walk strange paths, some of which seem preordained. A Maji can tap into the power of Synchronicity, enabling the magician to be at the right place at the right time or pick up hints the magical Skein might be strewing in the Maji’s path.

Since a player can cherry-pick which adits his PC knows, this allows for the creation of nearly any type of magician. If you want to play a sorcerer steeped in the Celtic druidic tradition, a New Age earth mother with potent healing (and hexing) powers, or a Hermitic magician well-versed in summoning angels and devils to do his bidding, you can build such a character in MAJUS.

That all you got?

Nope. Since the line between magic and psychic phenomenon is blurry (and some would argue non-existent), MAJUS contains rules for psychic talents and most Maji have one or two of them as well. These “paranormal talents” (PTs) cover a lot of ground and include aura reading, distance viewing, dowsing, dream walking, mesmerism, psychometry, and pyrokinesis, just to name a few. All total, there are thirteen different PTs to choose from, some of which will be familiar to those acquainted with other Pacesetter games, while others a brand new.

How are Maji organized?

In general, most Maji associate themselves with like-minded individuals and these groups are known as “towers” after the traditional sanctums of magicians. Towers vary in size from a half-dozen magicians to a few hundred, based on their goals, training, and ability to get along. MAJUS includes nine suggested towers, some of which are suitable for PC membership, while others are out-and-out “bad guys.” The nine towers included in MAJUS are:

  • Abraxas: A group of magical families who enhance their power by consuming demons and other supernatural entities.
  •  The Circle of Saturn: Aging Maji who are searching for immortality—by any means necessary.
  • Prima Materia: Alchemists who seek not to change lead into gold, but perfect their mortal bodies into near-indestructible killing machines.
  • The Projecteers: Maji who walk the halls of government, using military funding to engage in their own private wars to win the Old Game.
  • The Quiet: Magical police (or are they assassins?) working for the enigmatic Veiled Masters who might be pulling all the strings in the Mehen.
  • Schwarze Sonne: A tower of Maji birthed in Nazi Germany that still has access to the strange occult experiments enacted during that time.
  • Sodality of Thoth Eternal: Maji on an archeological quest that travels the world, collecting artifacts and grimoires.
  • The Thessalians: Witches with the power to draw down the moon and harness its energies against their enemies.
  • The Witchfinders: Outlaw bikers who have no interest in the Old Game and serve as a (relatively) safe haven for those of similar thinking.
In addition to the towers, there’s a new breed of Maji in the Old Game, one that came out of the Age of Aquarius and the increased interest in magic during the 1960s. Known as “erratics,” these Maji are independent agents who might be the key to winning control of the Skein or disposable pawns easily manipulated by the towers.

You’ve got Maji, but urban fantasy is rife with other supernatural creatures. Any in MAJUS?

A dozen of them, not counting rules for creating your own astral entities like angels, nature spirits, devils, and demons. As with the magic of MAJUS, I drew on real world folklore to populate the supernatural ecological niches of the game, but gave each a different twist. From magic viruses that turn the infected in bloodthirsty maniacs, to indestructible ogres created by twisted French nobles, to psychic vampires, to aquatic bogeymen who keep the souls of drowned victims in bottles, there’s a lot of nastiness in the shadows of MAJUS. You might never look at a neon “LIVE NUDE GIRLS” sign the same.

I’m not that familiar with the other Pacesetter games. How compatible is MAJUS with other games?

The good news is that MAJUS is a complete game and you don’t need the other Pacesetter games available from Goblinoid to play. Hopefully, once you read the rules, you’ll use them as written and launch a MAJUS campaign with the rulebook alone. Plus, as an Action Table system game, MAJUS is fully compatible with TIMEMASTER and ROTWORLD, allowing you to throw in magic-wielding foes or new monsters in those game campaigns.

However, even if you decide not to use the Action Table system, the MAJUS setting is detailed enough (but not overly detailed) to easily be used with other RPGs. You can adapt the background material, towers, default setting, and other aspects of the game to build an exciting campaign using your rule system of choice. Plus, MAJUS features a short primer on “noir” campaigns, which is extremely helpful to the novice game master looking to incorporate those elements into other games.

Hopefully this clears up some of the questions surrounding MAJUS and gets you all excited to play. If so, please consider helping fund the game by visiting the Kickstarter page and pledging. If you have further questions, feel free to ask them hear or comment over at the Kickstarter page. Either Dan Proctor or I will address them whenever possible.

8 comments:

Timothy said...

Mike, this looks absolutely AMAZING, and I would thoroughly enjoy a playtesting session at Empire Gaming sometime.

Dan of Earth said...

Thanks for that Mike! I'm thinking of making a draft without art available to all who contribute at the $25 or higher, to help get some discussion and maybe even online games going.

grodog said...

Michael---

The magic system sounds pretty flexible, which is great; and the background sounds laced with intrigue and surprises. I have a question about each for you:

1) on the system front, the magic system's adits sound similar-ish to _Ars Magica_ or _Mage_, but perhaps a little more streamlined. Are you familiar with either, and if so, does my comparison sound on-target?

2) on the setting front, you laced the post with various allusions to aspects of the world (Nazis, The Old Game, Mehen, etc.). Are these setting mysteries unique to Majus, or are they part of the larger background common across the other Pacesetter games?

Thanks!

Allan.

Michael Curtis said...

Allan,

I'm more familiar with "Mage," although I have played "Ars Magica" once or twice. Considering both are amongst the most recognizable RPGs with modern mysticism at their cores, I knew comparisons between them (especially "Mage") would be inevitable.

The similarities are largely due to a shared point of reference. When writing Mage, I looked at a variety of real world schools of magical thought and the effects most magician seek to produce and discovered that both Mark Rein-Hagen and I seemed to be working from the same sources.

Since MAJUS uses the Pacesetter System rather than written from whole cloth, I utilized the Action Table core mechanics to produce MAJUS, treating the adits more like skills than Paranormal Talents. This accounts for some of the streamlining. I might have gone another way had MAJUS used a different game mechanic.

As to 2), all of the setting is unique to MAJUS (except Nazis, of course). I wanted to build a shadow conspiracy most appropriate to the "magic noir" theme for the game, and this is what developed. However, those elements are not so overwhelming or specific that they overshadow material already existing for TIMEMASTER, ROTWORLD or SANDMAN, and can be used without causing any problems. In fact, I think they'd blend nicely with what little we know of the SANDMAN world,

grodog said...

Thanks, as always, Michael, for your quick and thorough replies :D

Allan.

Herb Nowell said...

Mike, any possibility of an Appendix N of all the stuff you got at Borders. I have a few references, mostly from lists created by Ken Hite, but I'd love to peak behind the curtain.

Michael Curtis said...

Herb,

I'd have to go check my reference shelves and try and remember what helped fuel the project. I know off-hand I referred to Bonewits' "Real Magic" (and its game-related counterpart, "Authentic Thamaturgy"), Gonzalez-Wippler's "The Complete Book of Spells, Ceremonies, and Magic," Hite's "Suppressed Transmissions 1 &2," Greer's "The New Encyclopedia of the Occult," Chamber's "Dictionary of the Unexplained," and a few more which are boxed away at the moment. But that's the starting point.

Herb Nowell said...

Thanks.

I'm not sure if I should be happy or scared I already have four of those on my shelves.