Panakos: The Castaway Campaign is an open sourced, free to use, campaign setting for the Pathfinder Role Playing Game system. It was developed by a group of experienced, aging gamers to be flexible enough to provide a variety of settings, and to fit a more casual, fun style of play, built on open source principles. Instead of starting with a fixed idea about what a setting could or should look like, the campaign started by trying to identify the flaws in tabletop gaming itself, and develop a setting that fixed those flaws.
Lets say some GM comes up with a desert campaign. How do you describe it to your friends? "Well, his game is sort of a cross between Egyptian mythos and Arabic flavor, and has a little Roman thrown in." Describe JRR Tolkein to someone. "Well, his books are based on Finnish and Gaelic mythology, with a little Norse, and they developed some of the fundamental elements of high fantasy." What are you doing? You're relating fictional work back to real world myth. And is the fictional work better in some way than the real world myth? Highly doubtful. Is it more fleshed out than the real world myth? No possible way. Is that GM going to put together as much source material as the Human Race has already put together for our real myths? Hell. No.
So why bother with derivative mythologies? Just use real ones. Premise 1 for the Castaway Campaign is that all the old world mythologies are in it. No monotheism, mind you, no 'God' in the modern sense, but every one of the 'Gods' in the pre-modern sense. Want to worship Aires? Kali? Raiden? Coyote? Thor? Have worshipers of each all in the same party? We've got you covered, in a way that makes sense. Click on the "World Overview" tab, above for more details.
Ever had problems getting a GM? Sure you have. Ever had a game collapse because the GM got a better job, or had more kids, or moved? Sure you have. Ever had a GM that railroaded you down a particular storyline because he's trying to tell a 3 year story arc, when all you want to do is play the character concept you've worked out, that doesn't fit at all with his story? Oh yes. Ever had a game that died because the GM simply burned out, or the players burned out on that GM, or some combination of burnout happened where the game wasn't fresh and interesting anymore? Sure. Ever noticed how hard it is to get your party up past level 12 or 15 because the story arc ended, or burnout happened before then? Uh-huh.
Remember back when you were a kid, when a different GM would run a different game for a session or three, and you just showed up with whatever character you had, from whatever other game you were playing? Fun wasn't it? Problem was, some dork would show up with Elminster and a magic wardrobe full of every robe in the Wondrous Item chart, because he'd had a Monty Haul GM before. So everyone's natural inclination was to centralize GMing so one GM could be overseer of the game's power level, and you ended up in the Single GM Trap.
A trap that's been around for years.
Panakos fixes all that, by establishing a predetermined loot progression that manages power level, by compartmentalizing the game world in themed elements that allow GMs to easily switch between episodes, and by encouraging the GM Rotation with predetermined in-game custom character rewards for any player who steps up to run a session or eight. No need to worry about the GM burning out, because all the players GM, and they all get loot for it. The game becomes less of a dogmatic "you're playing in my game" exercise, and more of a cooperative endeavor, which ends up being a lot more fun. Click on the "Game Mastering" section for more details on rotating the GM.
PCC is the way of the future in gaming, if you buy what the guys in the game design seminar circuit are selling, and it just makes sense that if you're going to be giving out in-game loot rewards for GM stints, that you also give out in-game loot rewards for developing the campaign itself. That's actually some of the basis for this campaign - to give the players currently playing in the Panakos world a repository for their generated content. And with that comes rules for what you get for contributing. MMOs give loot for content, Panakos does the same. After all, it's free, right? Check the "Rewards" section for more information.
Ever noticed right around 15th level there ceases to be any reason to actually go anywhere? "Lets go get some loot." "Okay, hey druid, scry on where some loot is." "Found some." "Great, everyone buff up and lets teleport there." <POP> "RRAAAGGGRRR." "We sure smoked those guys, lets teleport back and go to Waffle House." Never mind that teleport and other sorts of high end magic essentially destroys the need for such mundane things as, say, long distance trade, or feudal economics of any sort, wallpapering the sorts of things that you need in your campaign world for flavor. Like taverns. And pirates. Who's going to be a pirate when all long distance trade is handled via teleport and portable hole?
Panakos fixes this by breaking the world up into zones where the broken stuff (scry, teleport) can't cross, only boats can.
Except ninjas. So we've got those too.
Panakos is a game world consisting of many different contiguous island chains, each of which is assigned a pantheon and flavor that's directly from Old Earth religions. Not a derivative copy, the real religion, with the real gods and real places. Rainbow Bridge? Got that. Mount Olympos? Got that. Authentic ancient cities too. Ever wanted to walk through Babylon with your Succubis cohort? Got it.
Each of these archipelagos was created by a pantheon of gods who were cast away from Pangaea (Earth) to be a sub-realm where they could hide out away from Yahweh the Usurper. As more gods showed up creating more island chains, the oceans between them flowed together, and Panakos was born. Scry/teleport/sending only work within a sub realm, and the gods themselves walk throughout the subrealms etherially. Any sort of trade must be done by ship.
PC Parties can all be from one region, or a mixture from all of the above, but the real adventure comes from hopping from one region to the next, in a boat, doing either piracy or privateering or long distance trade. And as you hop around the ocean, it becomes very easy to hop between GMs, because whoever wants to go next just drops a hook for a different area, supporting whatever flavor of episode he wants to run, and off the party goes.
Simple, really. And as you start to get into a Panakos Campaign, you realize how fun it used to be to play shorter stories, and how fun it used to be to have interchangeable characters to other games. At least that's what the first couple of playtest groups have found out. Hence, tada, I bring you Panakos. If you want to contribute, send an email to panakospublishing at gmail dot com.