Game Master Guide
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Welcome! If you're on this page, you're looking for a quick guide on how to run a MazeWorld session and become a Game Master or GM. This page will serve as your guidebook, complete with advice and suggestions.
- 1 The role of the Game Master
- 2 Preparation
- 3 Writing a plot for others to play
- 4 Managing the game and the players
The role of the Game Master
The objective of any roleplaying game, if not any game at all, is for everyone playing to have fun.
If the story of a tabletop RPG is a boat, the Game Master (you!) is the person controlling the rudder, and the players are in control of the oars. Cooperation is required to get anywhere, and while the role of Game Master gives a great deal of control over the overall direction of the story, you should be prepared for the story not to go exactly as planned. To force the players to get into a pre-planned direction is to railroad them, which is widely considered to be bad form.
Before running a MazeWorld game, review the following in order:
- Know the game
- Know yourself
- Know the players
- Set boundaries and limits
Know the game
This section is intended mostly for new GMs, but even the author needs his own wiki for a refresher from time to time. Don't hesitate to spend time reading the wiki to familiarize yourself with the lore and the mechanics; not only it might help you spark an idea for a scenario, but it will help you get acquainted with how things are meant to work. With the exception of this page, most of the wiki is directed at both GMs and players.
MazeWorld is designed as a play-by-chat tabletop RPG where bots handle dice and random generation. It's not only okay but highly encouraged to keep an internet browser with wiki pages open while playing and running a session. This wiki is your rulebook.
Engagement is not a dirty word; it should be the vector by which fun comes to you. Players are interested to play for various reasons; they want to play as characters of their own creation, they want to leave a dent into the world of the Mazes, they want to kill creatures and live out fantasies of destruction and mayhem. Whatever these reasons may be, if the game allows them to indulge, that is what engages them. Fun is had when they are enjoying themselves while indulging. Fun does not happen if the enjoyment is not there, or worse, actively denied from them.
The same is true of you. Why do you want to GM? What do you enjoy the most? Perhaps you're interested to write in the universe of the Mazes, through the medium of roleplaying. Perhaps you have stories to tell. Perhaps there's a specific kind of stories that appeals the most to you. Perhaps you just want to run your own games because you're tired of waiting for Tempest to be available. (Trust me, I understand, I hate it when I'm not available either.)
If you have a good understanding of the kind of stories you want to tell, don't hesitate to tell your players. Offer them ideas to bounce around, themes you're interested in running, and make sure that your players are interested to be part of those stories. If there's conflict or disagreement between what you want and what your players want, they are best defused early on. It is quite annoying and possibly embarrassing for everyone involved if the game doesn't turn out to be what they expected.
- Credit where credit is due, good surprises are possible. Shoutout to Reina, I wouldn't have been able to write this without you. With that said, don't count on them, communication is key, as with all things in life.
Know your players
Talk with your players! Let them know in advance what your stories should be about. Although there is a heavy focus on weapons and combat in MazeWorld, all sessions do not have to feature 15 fights and two hours of loot to sort out. Find out what your players would prefer to play. Something more action-oriented with plenty of shooting and killing? Something more story-driven with intrigue, mystery, talking to people? Something survival-driven with an emphasis on eking out an existence out of little to nothing? Perhaps they want to be involved in the world, play as members of a group, a gang, a faction.
All of your carefully crafted plans, details, multiple possibilities, and intrigue will fall apart if it's not what the players expect. If they're in it to kill stuff across the world, and they're being served a slow-paced mystery set mostly in the same town, they may feel bored and uninvested, and they will be less likely to keep playing.
More often than not, players want different things. Even more often, they may not know how to express what exactly they want, or they may only have a vague idea. Asking the question "What would you like to play" plainly isn't the most efficient. Offer specific situations, give examples, and gauge the reactions. If it's not your first session together, recall what made your players laugh, get invested, what seemed to have captured their attention the most, and ask them if they'd like more of that.
However, avoid repeating the same actions and the same plots in the hopes of getting the same reactions. Just as jokes get less effective the more they're repeated, stories get stale the more they're retold. In short: Don't commit the storytelling equivalent of Spongebob tearing his pants over and over. The best moments of the past should be used as inspirations to create new good moments in the future.
To sum it up, it's all about crafting a story together that keeps everyone interested. Subvert expectations here and there, introduce twists and surprises, but not too often; or else your players will be bored, frustrated, and feel like they have no control over the story. On the other hand, giving them too much of what they expect will also bore them.
If you have a good idea of the kind of game you want to run, and who your players are, then it's a good time to discuss with your players what you don't want to see.
By its nature, and as described in the content warning of the Introduction, violence and violent encounters against critters and other sapient beings are the norm. The Mazes are a dystopian world where people eke out an existence as best as they can, and where matters of morality often depend on who's in charge in the general vicinity.
Potential issues that certain players may object to:
- The combat and health system lend themselves to graphic and
- Extremely immoral acts, such as the possibility butcher a lot of creatures, including humans and other sapients. (Note that doing so is explicitly a crime under Standard Law and most independent communities)
- Racism and discrimination, even if it's the fantastic kind (speciesism), are central to the themes of the world (human-youkai conflict, differences between humans, halflings and youkai, etc.)
- Adult and sexual themes. Strip clubs, sex workers, prostitution, and generally permissive sexual behavior are common in the Mazes, particularly in Demonic and Syndicate towns.
Where are the kids?
In particular, one area of contention I, the author, would like to take about is the depiction of children in the Mazes. By design, they are not depicted, no character seen in the game is under the age of 18, and there are no facilities specifically dedicated to the catering and education of children. Obviously, they have to exist, no-one is born a fully-formed adult, however, I personally choose not to depict these elements in the world, specifically to allow the other, potentially contentious elements of the world (violence, immoral acts, discrimination, sex/adult themes) to exist.
I recognize this is part of my personal biases as the author and that it may seem irrational or arbitrary. Like in a Grand Theft Auto game, children are only inferred but never seen. Unlike a GTA game, my reasons are personal, not practical (such as trying to avoid an AO rating). That does not mean I don't believe you can tell a good story involving children in an otherwise adult and violent world (people who know me will tell you I am a fan of Yakuza, and would recommend Yakuza 1/Yakuza Kiwami, where arguably one of the most important characters is a kid girl), it simply means I'm uncomfortable with the possibility of involving them. If you, as a GM or as a player, would like to write children and underaged characters in your stories, do so at your own risk and under your own responsibility. I do not endorse them.
The term Table rules refers to the protocol in place on how to deal with issues such as:
- How to deal with interruptions with the game (player has to get up for a bathroom break, IRL issues, etc.)
- How are rules questions handled?
- Is your game more about rolling dice and making things happen mechanically, or is it more about immersive in-character experiences?
- Should all rolls be visible? Do all rolls matter? If some rolls are secret, should the GM tell the player they've rolled in secret?
- As the GM, how deadly will you be? Should the NPC creatures be ruthless and trying to kill the players at every opportunity, or play a more passive role until provoked?
- In case a player character is defeated, is it permadeath, or do you want to give players a chance to come back, one way or another?
Below are the ways Tempest generally deals with it, which acts as the "default" recommendations.
Recommended: If a player is unavailable today, has to go temporarily or for the rest of the day, they should be able to, as long as they inform the GM and any other players. If there's an opportunity for me to continue playing with the players that remain, I'll do so, but if possible, not to the point of "leaving behind" the character belonging to the player that had to leave. There is no leveling system in MzW, but if there is an ongoing story that needs the involvement of every player, it should only be continued with all players involved.
Alternatively, if you only run one-player games, that point is moot. As long as your player is AFK, you just have to sit and wait.
Recommended: I'm generally pretty chill with being told I'm wrong (even the author has his moments...) if the rules say something other than what I said. If I missed it and I realize it later, roll with it. If I'm being told in the moment that the way I calculated something or rolled something isn't what's suggested by the wiki, I'll review it. But the GM always has the GM fiat power. If you want to put your foot down and override the rules, the rules will be overridden.
Immersion and involvement
Recommended: Ask your players and adapt your games to their tastes and needs.
Recommended: I'm a proponent of anxiety rolls to keep the tension up. In my eyes, GMs have the right to roll for any reason, openly and secretly, and not necessarily associate a roll with anything that happens next. If you can keep your players guessing, it means they're paying attention!
Obviously, if the added layer of anxiety seems like it'd ruin the mood, or is too much for them to handle, listen to your players and avoid it.
Deadliness and death
Recommended: MzW is a high-damage model game, where one-shot kills are absolutely possible. I think the game offers a fair amount of opportunities and methods to avoid overly dangerous threats until the players are ready for them. However, sometimes there is no avoiding a deadly fate. MazeWorld has historically run on the principle of permadeath, owing to its roots as a heavily roguelike-inspired project, until it became more of a fully-fledged game. Sometimes, death may not occur, but the circumstances resulted in a character losing limbs, in such a way that continuing their adventures would become very unlikely, to the point they may as well be retired.
I generally ask players how deadly they want the game to be by offering a few options, intended to tailor players to different playstyles:
- Permadeath: This is how the game was originally designed. One life, permanent death. Treat the game as a roguelike.
- Three lives: The player character can die up to three times until death becomes permanent. How you want to explain this ability to come back from the dead is up to you - examples below.
- A a science team has created backup clone bodies for you, and figured out a way to preserve your consciousness after death, but could not make more than two additional bodies.
- You have a special deal with Heaven or Hell (your soul is their property, you're an agent, etc.) that prevents you from completely dying even after your body's vital functions have been terminated.
- The Administrator did it.
- Infinite lives: Same principle as three lives, but there are effectively no limits to the number of times you can come back.
- Hero mode: The player character can't die; anything that would have caused lethal damage instead causes just enough to be a heavy setback but not actual death. The character eventually wakes up again. An option for players who want to explore and have cinematic adventures but do not want death to hinder them.
If you go for a three-lives or infinite-lives approach, I recommend the following:
- Any gear the player had on their bodies upon death will stay with that body, most likely lost or looted by others.
- The player character may eventually "respawn", naked and without gear, wherever it would make the most sense for them to come back; a lab, a shrine or sanctum, or even in the middle of the UA.
- The world does not officially recognize your death, resulting in your bank account and item vault remaining active. This can and should be used to bounce back into action; your ability to bounce back from death depends on your ability to save for a bad day.
Don't forget that these don't have to be set in stone. Explaining in-universe where your extra bodies come from can potentially be a story hook (see below) of its own.
Writing a plot for others to play
Based on the initial ideas and with everybody's limits, preferences, and rules set in place, you can start thinking about your most important job: writing your plots for your players to play through.
Unless you want to focus on the moment-to-moment, in a slice-of-life fashion, with no particular story or plot (and that's fine too!), you will need a hook.
The hook is the seed, the spark of a story, the original idea, or plot concept that your story may come from. It is easier to contextualize a hook if you first have an understanding of how the world works (for example, there can't be driving-related missions in a world like the Mazes, which is a maze of rooms where no vehicle could function), but in general, a hook can be about anything. Think of it as the initial theme.
Whenever you think up of a hook, it's often the most important part of that story, and most of the time, it's the climax, the big reveal, or the resolution. That's okay, that's how most people come up with story ideas. Don't be scared if you can't come up with every detail in a single flash of inspiration; it's not you having writer's block, it's really perfectly normal.
It may seem like the most obvious and straightforward way of writing a plot is to write it from beginning to end, as it comes to you and in the intended order of development. However, there is a technique that naturally flows from discovering the hook first: "Writing the plot backwards".
Since you already know the climax or the big reveal, you can work in reverse and try to figure out how things came to be. The Mazes are a living, breathing world where things happen outside of the involvement or even the awareness of the players. The world is not waiting for the players to do something for things to happen. Major factions and minor groups are plotting every day to advance their goals or sustain their existence; player characters are dragged into a situation more often than they become the instigators.
Writing the background is writing the sequence of events that leads to the players being involved, by choice or by force of circumstance, into the plot. In your mind, ask yourself as many questions as possible to solidify the plot and prepare for eventualities. Questions such as:
- How did the PCs get into this situation? Did the PCs have a choice?
- What does that group want the PCs to do for them?
- What does it appear they want it for? What do they really want it for and why are they hiding it or not telling it to the PCs?
- Are there people that want to stop the PCs from doing this thing to this group? What are their motivations?
- Who is the target? Do they know they're the target? If they don't, how will they react when or if they realize it?
Keep in mind that players can and will do the unexpected. Rather than try to force the players back into how you think they should react, these details should serve as your fall-back point to continue the story in the now-unexpected direction. Building the background not only helps you build the plot; it helps you improvise better. With skill, you can make it seem like it was your plan and intention all along!
- Example: Your players have been tasked with eliminating a certain target. After tracking down the target's location, the PCs get in position to eliminate him. However, a missed shot alerted the target's security detail, and the PCs remained pinned down, unable to give chase. The target has escaped. Fortunately, the GM has written enough background information about the target to have an idea of where he could have gone to hide. The GM improvises circumstances leading up to the PCs learning of this hideout's location, giving them another chance to hunt the target down. The PCs find the hideout's location, where they defeated the local security, cornered the target, and domed him. Mission accomplished! Time to go home and get paid.
Moments and scenes
It's helpful to break down the story into individual objectives, so that you have an idea of what sort of action will be involved. In the above example, the story can be broken down in a series of short, easily-understood sentences outlining the plot as you envisioned, with the last being the final objective (presumably what the hook of your plot is).
Using the example above, we can break it down this way:
- Start your next job
- Learn identity of the target
Track down the target's location and eliminate him
- The target has escaped, look around for clues.
- You've learned of the name of a hideout. Locate this hideout.
- Search the hideout and eliminate the target.
- Mission accomplished, time to get paid.
Each of these points can be a scene of its own. Starting your next job and getting your objectives can be done in a number of ways. Maybe you're directly meeting your employer, perhaps you received an anonymous phone call, or you answered a request at the Hiring Bureau. Some ways are straightforward and involve little choice or talking. Others are more social, providing opportunities to talk, discuss, negotiate pay.
Learning the identity of the target can be an investigative task, requiring the PCs to search for clues, make use of their resources or publicly-known information, talk to people, and potentially get in danger just for trying to pry.
Tracking the target down and getting to him can involve stealth and combat, where you will actually face an armed group of enemies trying to protect the target; not to mention the target could also be well-armed and ready for a fight by themselves.
Don't forget the transitional scenes; the parts where you have to travel from location to location, which exposes you to the dangers of the UA. It may be tempting to offer skips, but don't neglect the potential of meeting people and finding useful loot on the way to the target; perhaps one of the characters is hurting for supplies (low on ammo, no meds...), perhaps the target is involved with a gang living in the UA, which could be an opportunity for your players to extract useful information... There are many possibilities!
Give players opportunities
Be aware of your players' equipment and skillsets, especially if they have very different builds, and even more especially if the opposition is aware of the player characters or know they're coming. Always plan multiple ways to get to a satisfactory outcome, especially if these outcomes make use of different skills. Although many creatures and occupations have default equipment sets, if you think it would be a fairer challenge to change what kinds of weapons, armor, tools, etc. they carry, don't hesitate.
If all of your characters have cheap guns and light armor, deck the opposition with cheap guns and little to no armor. If one of them has skill levels at Negotiating, give the team an opportunity to talk or barter their way out of a fight. And so on, and so forth. Having access to your players' character sheets is important; it'll tell you exactly what gear and skill levels they have, so you can adapt in consequence.
When generating creatures in the UA or placing NPCs you planned to include in your story, it is important to keep tabs on what their location is (which room, which Battlespace Side), what their health status is, and what equipment they possess.
I recommend opening a blank Google Docs page titled GM document, where you note down all of the relevant details about the creatures and NPCs your players will face. When they do end up in the same room as these creatures (or at least the same facility), it's time to pull up their vital details and their equipment.
When generating creatures and people at random in the UA, open their corresponding wiki page, decide which Side of the room they're standing in, and copy and paste their basic stats, limb groups map, and if they carry weapons and gear, the list of gear they carry.
- Some creatures may have more than one set of equipment; choose or randomly determine which set each creature possesses.
When the NPCs end up in a fight with the player characters, deciding which attacks or weapons to use can be a little daunting, especially when there are so many. I recommend following the rule of intelligence level: An animal or non-sapient creature generally acts by instinct, therefore they should pick their attacks randomly - the dice decide which they do next. A sapient creature is capable of reason and strategy, therefore they should select their attacks deliberately - you control them like players control their characters.
- Of course, this is not a hard rule; you can fully control a non-sapient and you can use the dice to randomly determine a human raider's next attack. This is just a suggestion.
Don't overburden yourself with minutiae and details when it comes to the NPCs. Yes, every creature can technically be subjected to multiple wounds, Venom poisoning, an Inebriation level and a large variety of effects, but unless they specifically come into play during the fight, don't build a character sheet for every single NPC.
- No need to fully calculate damage for every single shot. Follow the priority order of Pain, Limb Damage, Injuries, and Effects.
- If the creature is going to die from Pain alone and your players have no intention to butcher them for meat, you don't really need to check the HP of their body parts to see if they're extra dead.
- If your players are hunting for food, or the impact did not cause a lethal amount of Pain, then you can calculate Limb Damage. It's sometimes possible to kill a creature with LD before causing enough Pain.
- If the hit did not cause enough damage to be lethal, check whether the attack caused injuries, especially wounds. Open wounds mean the creature is bleeding, and losing all blood will lead to their death.
- Only then can you check for extraneous effects. Fractures don't kill but they can lower the Strength or increase the FT of your target. Many weapons cause extra Effects which can further debilitate them.
If certain NPCs are going to be recurring characters, it may be worthwhile to detail them more than just a name and basic motivations. Don't hesitate to add as many details as you think will be necessary.
Fleshing out your important NPCs can make them much more interesting. They could be tattooed, belong to a specific species, possess unique physical features, a quirk, a speech impediment, a taste for exclusively green clothes, a cool custom gun...
If they're going to be really important (a recurring character, a mission giver, perhaps a companion or a friend to the players), then you may want to invest the time to write their personality, their background, their motivations and life goals, and more. You can also make the decision of moving these NPCs out of your general-purpose GM document and creating a full character sheet. Such a character is known as a GMPC (Game Master Player Character).
GMPCs are tools, not pets
It can be tempting to spend hours lovingly building every single aspect of your GMPC, but such characters should be created in service of the story. At most, they should support the players, not be the hero in their place. Do not fall victim to the GMPC pet syndrome; if you're so emotionally invested in that character you cannot accept the possibility that they can (or perhaps, should) die, retire, or not be seen again after a certain point, you risk annoying your players and taking agency from them. Especially if the GMPC is inexplicably smarter, more powerful, better endowed, or always just happens to save the player characters in the nick of time - or, if they're villains, always managed to escape death at the last second.
GMPCs are simply very fleshed-out NPCs and should be treated as such. They are tools for your story. Don't get attached to one tool; it cannot do everything, and forcing it to do everything will eventually derail the story and ruin the fun. Nothing kills the mood faster than declaring that your Baron McBadass or your Bishie McK-Pop isn't actually dead and was not actually defeated. Let your players be the heroes, and let them have a victory if they've earned it.
Managing the game and the players
Give PCs the focus they deserve
Players invest various amounts of time, effort, and creative energy building their characters. Some players are very attached to their characters, and rightly so. They are characters created in the mind of another, designed to run into a plot of your creation.
For this reason, it is important to respect the player's wish to roleplay as the character they intend to play as. Let them explore aspects of their character's personality and use the skills they are most interested in, by providing opportunities to do so. This can be weaved into your plots, or explored during downtime (we'll talk about pacing in a little bit).
Part of knowing your players well is managing everybody's personality and sense of initiative. Some people will always be more quiet and introverted than others, and as a result, they may be less inclined to take charge and put themselves in the focus of the story. It's the GM's responsibility to make sure that every character has an opportunity to get into the spotlight and feel useful to the party.
If you feel you have to step in and change the details of your plot or ongoing scene to give a player more spotlight, don't hesitate to do so. Split the party, give each character a chance to use their respective skills or make their personalities shine, put them in a position to do some good combat; how you do it is up to you.
As the GM, you are the master of pacing.
If it's taking too long to get to the next important objective, don't hesitate to cut and abridge. While I recommend using the UA as much as possible, if your adventure spans across several towns and multiple Zones, it is sometimes useful not to play through every single room of every single UA trip, particularly if your current plot is long and involved.
If you can't make the players get to their destinations faster, then don't hesitate to move locations where things are intended to happen.
- Example: If you planned on the PCs to visit a particular bar in a particular location so they could overhear rumors or stories on where next to go, ask yourself whether it really matters if they get their information from that one specific bar in that one specific town. Would the story break or be derailed if they got it from the local bar in the town they happen to be in right now?
Inversely, if your players are enjoying themselves in a particular location or situation, don't rush them out of it too quickly, allow for it to last. It could well be an opportunity for you to take notes...
- Example: If your players are trying to gather clues for a murder mystery and they're getting a knack out of interviewing various shop owners and local inhabitants, discovering their names and personalities, let them! If they feel the information they learn that way could be useful... consider making it useful, even if you hadn't planned on it before.
If accelerating or slowing the pace of the plot is not enough, and relocating the key locations isn't enough, don't hesitate to go for more radical measures. Maybe the key location is in a different town. Maybe that specific story element isn't needed at all and the plot would flow naturally without it. As long as the key plot points that make up your story are maintained, it won't make that much of a difference to your players if it doesn't happen exactly where you had intended for it to happen.
It's still possible to play between plots and stories, and it's perfectly fine to spend 4 hours talking to fellow patrons and getting drunk at the local bar somewhere in the Eastern Zone, if that's what the players want to do. Offer players some downtime or daily life scenes, if they're interested.
Surprises and the unexpected
Murphy's Law of Combat #8: No plan survives initial contact unscathed. Especially with player characters.
Traveling in the Uncivilized Area is all about the unexpected. You may well be running a plot that is more talking and thinking than shooting and strategy, but suddenly, a venedrake rears its big, ugly purple head. Your players are starting to regret showing up with trench-coats and .38 Special revolvers.
But do they absolutely have to fight the dragon? Consider making it so that particular dragon is wounded, asleep, or otherwise uninterested in attacking, which would most likely result in a very one-sided fight. Never intentionally and suddenly place your players in a situation with really bad odds; otherwise, the game will be very unfair for them.
There is one exception to this rule: if your players agree to intentionally throw themselves into really questionable or hopeless situations, then let them deal with the consequences. If they feel that all hope is lost and they are going to discharge their .38s on the Venedrake in a last stand of glory before dying to multiple hits of a Toxicblast, give them that moment of final glory. (Just make sure that's actually what your players want. Make sure they're aware that they could've snuck past the dragon without a scratch and that they're ready to deal with what happens if they don't survive.)
Example plot ideas
Here are a few random ideas that can be used as themes for story hooks and plots, with potential twists and turns listed under each. This is not an exhaustive list by any means! Feel free to take inspiration from them, take bits and pieces, or come up with totally original ideas.
- You belong to a small group of UA dwellers who must fight every day to survive, dreaming to one day move into the safety of a town.
- You can't move into a town because you simply don't make enough money, surviving on UA scavenging and spending what little money they have on supplies as a convenience store. You hope to score a big enough job, or stable employment, to be able to move in.
- You're banned from entering the local towns because you belong to a gang which the town considers their enemy. Yet, leaving the gang is impossible; they are the closest thing to a family you have, and they don't take kindly to traitors.
- You're part of a courier caravan. Perhaps you are the courier (the person carrying the package), or you work as armed security for the courier, protecting them from harm. You travel from town to town delivering merchandise, mail, important objects, braving the dangers of the UA, and living off of the contract money. You attract all sorts of bad people who want what you carry, but you're used to it.
- The caravan is composed of lifelong, inseparable friends; or maybe they're all members of the same family.
- One of the armed security is a mercenary, either independent or affiliated with MAIM, only in it for the money.
- You belong to the Military, and your job is to patrol the Mazes to seek out and destroy critters and critter nests in the UA. Food, shelter, guns, ammunition, training, and companions; you have it all, but you frequently head into the UA, putting your life on the line to keep Civilized Areas safe and trade routes safer.
- Your unit is stationed near the Youkai Nation's territory, and you frequently exchange fire with activist fighters during the course.
- You are part of the elite Phantom Forces branch, among the best of the best. Your unit is frequently sent to attack groups of fighters and eliminate important activist squadleaders in various hotspots of the UA, but your unit is also frequently harassing youkai caravans, traders, and citizen travelers, with all that it implies.
- You are an activist fighter belonging to a Youkai Nation task force. Your fellows in the Youkai Nation consider you a brave and honorable warrior, defending your land and your right of self-determination from the military invaders.
- You patrol the routes between the Nation's towns, keeping them safe and critter-free so your fellows can travel safely.
- Your task force is sent on ambush missions against patrolling Military squads, tasked with looting them of anything of use, and you or your squadmates dream of one day attacking a military town and expand the Nation's territory.
- You are a mercenary, and your main source of revenue is contract killing and bodyguarding. Individuals and towns pay for your services to "clean up" their towns and intersections of undesirable riffraff, to eliminate specific individuals, or to serve as a bodyguard for a client in need of protection.
- You're hired to do something outside of your usual field of work, finding yourself doing detective work, looking for a missing person or a stolen valuable. You accepted because it pays well.
- You are affiliated with the Mercenary Agency in the Mazes (MAIM), which binds you to the agency's mercenary ethics; you are only loyal to the terms of your contract and to MAIM, not to any individual, group or faction, even if you're working for them extensively. You may be working on behalf of the Syndicate one day and for a police officer the next. Some people respect the mercenary ethics; others don't.
- You belong to the Duster Bandits, a loosely associated band of outlaws who respect the Bandit Code: you only target the wealthy and the powerful, you help the poor and the destitute, you reject civilized life and find it abhorrent to hide in the safety of a town or an intersection, and you refuse all authority, whether from the Police or another faction.
- You save the life of someone in need of help, only to find out they're a rich and powerful citizen in a major town. The person you rescued offers many rewards that could set you up for life, but you'd have to break the Code and give up on the Bandit life... which might anger fellow Bandits.
- Your group successfully kidnapped a high-profile target, intended to set all of you for life, but one member of your group develops Lima syndrome for the target and runs away with them, denying your group a chance to make money, and resulting in the capture or death of the other members. You survived, but you ended up in prison. After release, you're seeking revenge.
- You're the one who ran away with the target, and you are on the run from fellow Bandits.
- You are a trader, operating an individual shop in a town or an intersection. Once a week, you have to close the shop to replenish your shop's inventory, which leads you across different towns to order merchandise from various suppliers, sometimes with the help of couriers or armed escorts with big backpacks.
- Your shop is struggling, and your ability to run the shop depends on a big, upcoming sale. But before you can make it, your shop is the target of a robbery, and the expensive merchandise is stolen from you. Your options are to find the merchandise back, or close the shop and lose your source of income.
- You were in the shop during the robbery and you were wounded. You passed out during the attack, but you survived and you were dragged to the nearest hospital. The experience traumatized you and gave you an additional motive to seek revenge.
- You have the sympathy of a law enforcer, either local (a TownSec officer) or a member of the Maze Police. Perhaps they're your friend, or have some other vested interest in helping you.
- The local mayor or InterSec Chief is in cahoots with the robbers, allowing it to happen (perhaps even orchestrating it or commissioning it). They might have a grudge against you, or they're trying to remove you so your shop emplacement can be sold to someone else.