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.
The developers of Panakos believe that almost all fictional mythologies in the regime of fantasy literature are stealing pieces and parts from real mythologies, from Tolkein on. We also believe that no casual GM or gaming group is going to be able to develop a mythology as comprehensive and interesting as existing real world mythologies. So we figured, why bother? Just use real ones. Premise 1 for the Castaway Campaign is that all the old world mythologies are in it.
This is a very freeing environment, because it allows PCs who wish to worship Thor, Osiris, Ares, and the Aborigine Rainbow Serpent to all share the same party. Further, it means that all the source material you could possibly need is already written, in the form of the actual myths of these pantheons. Finally, it acts as an educational tool and motivation for younger players, who may research real world myths for use in their fantasy gaming.
The developers of Panakos long realized that single GM games tend to peter off when “real life” gets in the way of the GM’s ability to prepare. This is especially important for older gamers with professional or familial responsibilities. Yet we still want to game, and we can often devote a month or two to a simpler story arc. This drove a need to compartmentalize story arcs in one or two level increments, with an easy method to pass the hat onto the next GM without breaking story continuity.
Panakos does this in several ways. First, the campaign map is comprised of tight regions flavored toward particular pantheons, where cross-ocean travel is common for the adventurers. This makes switching not only GMs but environments easy between GM stints. Second, Panakos utilizes the Wealth By Level system inherent to Pathfinder to provide “GM Rewards” to players who put their character on hold to run the game for a while. This keeps the GM’s PC up with the rest of the group, and provides a loot incentive to take a turn at the wheel.
What we’ve found, is that this GM rotation scheme actually makes the game a lot more fun, because it hearkens back to our youth when players would show up at games with a character in hand and play casually, without fear of breaks in continuity.
Premise 3: Lean on Player Created Content
In the same way that GMs who run stints are rewarded with character gear, players who develop portions of the campaign itself are rewarded with transferable ‘gear’ that applies to their characters in all Panakos related games. This becomes the incentive to fill the campaign out, and provides buy-in to the game world. It allows all the players to participate in the world building, and reap the fruits of their labor, while simultaneously reducing the burden of world development that normally falls on the shoulders of the GM.
Several major problems begin to erupt in high level campaigns once the players gain access to teleport, scry, and similar magic. First, ambush becomes the only viable encounter route, which severely hampers the GM’s ability to tell a cohesive story. Second, teleport end-arounds any workable economy built on feudal economics or long distance trade, because distance is eliminated from the equation. Panakos fixes this problem by breaking the world up into pantheon related zones, and prohibiting the use of such unlimited range effects to the boundaries of that zone, while still allowing sea travel between them.
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. Players can visit the Rainbow Bridge, Mount Olympos, or stroll down the downtown streets of Babylon with their Succubis cohort.
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, Panakos. If you want to contribute, send an email to panakospublishing at gmail dot com.