Maid RPG is still one of the most creative tabletop experiences out there

A few years back, I happened to have the good fortune to attend a PAX East with some Final Fantasy XIV-playing friends who live across the pond. All of us were into Japanese popular culture to one degree or another, so we took great pleasure in tracking down some of the most otaku things we could find on the show floor, and celebrating them together once we got back to our hotel rooms of an evening.

One of my favourite discoveries from that trip was Maid: The Roleplaying Game (Maid RPG hereafter), composed by Ryo Kamiya in 2004 and localised by Ewen Cluney in 2008. It’s a game that, I must confess, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to play a full session of — it’s a bit of a hard sell for my local friends, who barely know what anime is despite my best efforts to educate them — but which is nonetheless entertaining to just read the rules for, and perhaps indulge in a bit of light character creation funtimes.

Just recently, I’ve been re-reading that rulebook and remembering how much fun it seems. So I thought I’d share that joy with you all today.

Maid RPG

The concept behind Maid RPG is similar to other tabletop roleplaying systems: one person takes on the role of the game’s overall referee and delivers the scenario, (here dubbed the “Master”), while the other players take on the role of characters in the game world, living out their characters’ lives as the story unfolds… or goes wildly off the rails.

The big difference between Maid RPG and many other tabletop roleplaying systems is that the Master is usually (though not always) part of the game world rather than being some sort of omniscient, omnipotent but nonetheless intangible entity. The Maid players are there to serve the Master, and indeed an important resource for those Maid players is the amount of Favour they hold with the master; run too low on this and they are dismissed from service, which is a fate worse than death for a dedicated maid.

Another key distinguishing factor is the fact that Maid RPG is clearly designed to be as flexible as possible, and to take in any manner of scenarios you might be able to think up in your imagination. Want to be demure maids in the Sengoku era who are secretly ninjas? Go right ahead. Want to be ass-kicking space-age maids in a cyberpunk dystopia future? Go for it. Want to just be as anime as possible? This game encourages that — and indeed the various “replays” (transcripts of play sessions) shows exactly how much fun it can be to get really into things.

Maid RPG

As with most tabletop roleplaying systems, a certain amount of preparation is required before Maid RPG can be played, both for the maid players and for the Master. The former need to create their characters — more on that in a moment — while the Master needs to ensure that there is something to do.

Maid RPG isn’t designed for huge, sweeping, grand adventures; the rules specifically suggest that the entire scenario unfolds within what it describes as “the mansion”. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a literal mansion, but rather a neatly constrained area that it would make sense for the maids and the Master to spend the majority of their time. In a sci-fi scenario, for example, a space station or Star Trek-style spacecraft would make a suitable mansion.

The scenario setups included in Maid RPG’s rulebook range from taking a week to prepare for the Master’s birthday party to an apocalyptic conflict between the beleaguered Masters and the Maid Hazard threat which first appeared in 20XX AD. There are also plenty of rules for setting up your own scenarios — including a ton of tables that can help you randomly generate story starting points, settings and characters to involve in the unfolding plot. You can even play a game whose scenario unfolds entirely through random events if you so desire.

Maid RPG

The core mechanics in Maid RPG are kept very simple to the focus can remain on the storytelling. At any point one of the maid players encounters a challenge of some description, they roll a six-sided dice and multiply the result by whichever of their character attributes they are testing. Exceed a difficulty level set by the Master player and they succeed; fail and, well, they fail. Various modifiers can be applied — most notably by the maid players’ uniforms being damaged, since a uniform is the source of a maid’s power, after all — and “combat” in the game is handled with two opposing roles, the “defender” of which acts as the difficulty factor.

Notably, “combat” in Maid RPG doesn’t necessarily mean literal fighting; it simply means actions that are resisted by another. Sometimes the Master player will have to take on the role of NPCs that the maids will need to interact with; at other times, the maids may fight among themselves in the hope of attaining more Favour from the Master. It’s a simple but flexible system that can cover most eventualities — and it places a strong emphasis on creativity and role-playing.

This may not be to everyone’s taste, since some tabletop players prefer strongly rules-led games — and in no uncertain terms I’ll state at this point that if you’re not up for the silliness that Maid RPG has to offer, you’re not going to find what you crave here. This game is a means of facilitating creative, often overblown and hilarious storytelling as a group rather than focusing on making numbers get bigger. There is an element of making numbers get bigger, of course, but it is emphatically not the focus here.

If, on the other hand, you think you might be up for what Maid RPG promises, then it’s well worth taking a look at — even if you don’t think you’ll ever get around to actually playing it.

Maid RPG

To wrap up today, let’s go through an example of creating a simple character using Maid RPG’s included rules.

First up, we roll two six-sided dice (2D6) and divide by three (rounding down) for the game’s six main attributes. Our results are:

  • Athletics: 3
  • Affection: 3
  • Skill: 2
  • Cunning: 2
  • Luck: 2
  • Will: 2

Thoroughly average. Our next job is to determine our two Maid Types. This is achieved by rolling a six-sided die (D6) twice. The Maid Types add bonuses or penalties to our core attributes.

For my first roll, I get a 5, which means “boyish”. This provides +1 to Athletics and -1 to Skill. For my second, I get a 3, which means “pure”. This provides +1 to Affection and -1 to Cunning. Thus we end up with this:

  • Boyish/Pure maid
  • Athletics: 4
  • Affection: 4
  • Skill: 1
  • Cunning: 1
  • Luck: 2
  • Will: 2

Starting to look more interesting now, huh?

Next up, we roll two six-sided dice, using the first as the “tens” digit and the second as the “units” digit (referred to by the game as “D66”) to determine our maid colours. I get 44, which means our image colour is “white”. You can roll multiple times on this to determine hair, eye and clothing colour if you want to.

After that, we determine our maid’s two Special Qualities with another D66 roll each. Optionally, you can use between three and five Special Qualities to make the game more interesting and chaotic, but the rules note it can be tricky to make any beyond the third relevant to the ongoing action.

Maid RPG

For my first Special Quality, I roll a 62, which means I’m a membership of a certain organisation. This requires a D6 roll to determine what organisation I’m a member of; I roll a 4, which means I’m part of a group dedicated to some sort of political ideal, “possibly something extreme to the point of insanity”. The exact details are left up to us.

For my second Special Quality, I roll a 45, which means I have a special hairstyle. Another D6 roll later, I’ve scored a 2 and determined that my hair is long with dumplings, Sailor Moon-style.

Here’s how we’re looking so far:

  • Boyish/Pure maid
  • Member of a political organisation
  • Dumpling hairstyle
  • Athletics: 4
  • Affection: 4
  • Skill: 1
  • Cunning: 1
  • Luck: 2
  • Will: 2

Next up, we determine our Maid Roots with another D66 roll. I get 63, which means I became a maid in order to train myself to become the perfect bride one day. After that, we determine how I respond to stress with another D66 roll. I score 43, which means that upon having a “Stress Explosion”, I start crying uncontrollably.

Stress Explosions occur when your character’s Stress level exceeds their Spirit level, which we’ll come to in a moment. For the number of minutes — real time — that Stress exceeds Spirit, the maid player’s character must do nothing other than their Stress Explosion activity. NPCs are usually either knocked out or killed under the same circumstances; this is how you “win” a combat.

Maid RPG

Optionally at this point you can roll on some additional tables to add a bit more spice, so let’s do that, starting with a D66 to determine my maid’s “weapon” (not necessarily a literal weapon) of choice. These do not grant any particular special abilities and are purely for flavour. I roll 61, which means when shit gets real I have the ability to summon something to fight on my behalf.

Let’s also add a past trauma and some sort of complex for maximum melodrama. For Trauma, I roll 11, which means I’m a former delinquent. For Complexes, I roll 42, which means I look older than I really am.

All right, here’s how we’re shaping up:

  • Boyish/Pure maid
  • Member of a political organisation
  • Dumpling hairstyle
  • Wants to be a perfect bride
  • Former delinquent
  • Looks older than she really is
  • Stress Explosion: Crying
  • Athletics: 4
  • Affection: 4
  • Skill: 1
  • Cunning: 1
  • Luck: 2
  • Will: 2

We’re nearly done! Next up is determining our Maid Power, which means we pick our highest attribute (choosing between them if two or more are tied, as they are in our case) and then roll a D6 on an appropriate table. I choose Affection as my primary attribute and roll a 4, which means my Maid Power is Cooked With Love; whenever someone eats something I have cooked, they lose 1D6 Stress. I’m a healer!

Finally, we determine our starting Favour score, which is equal to Affection times two, and Spirit is equal to Will times ten.

So our final results are as such:

  • Boyish/Pure maid
  • Member of a political organisation
  • Dumpling hairstyle
  • Wants to be a perfect bride
  • Former delinquent
  • Looks older than she really is
  • Stress Explosion: Crying
  • Maid Power: Cooked with Love
  • Athletics: 4
  • Affection: 4
  • Skill: 1
  • Cunning: 1
  • Luck: 2
  • Will: 2
  • Favour: 8
  • Spirit: 20
  • Stress: 0

She sounds like fun, huh? Who knows what kind of adventures she’ll get up to — or even what she’s called?

If you want to try Maid RPG for yourself, check out the official website, where you can order a hardcopy of the book or a PDF version of the rules, plus download helpful resources such as character sheets and even the material that was cut or changed from the published book during localisation.

If you ever actually play it, we’d love to hear how you get on!

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Pete Davison
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