The Maid RPG was always something I was curious about but never really had the chance to try. One day I suggested to Kanashimi that I write an article about it. She responded by saying, “The Maid RPG? Someone should run a game of that so I can play it!” Since I had the most experience with role playing games in general I volunteered to run it, and so began my time with the Maid RPG; the first ever Japanese RPG to be brought over to America.
I personally believe that writing an RPG review is the most difficult type of review to write. (NOTE: for this article, RPG refers to a table top role playing game like Dungeons and Dragons and not of video game RPGs like Mass Effect or Final Fantasy) When you review a video game, your review is based on your experiences actually playing the game. When it comes to RPGs, you really don’t have the ability to play the game. Playing an RPG required you to play with a group and not everyone can round up people just to try out a new game. Luckily for me, I was able to try out the game with some of the coolest people around; the 91.8 The Fan Staff. Not every reviewer is quite so lucky. Many RPG reviews are based solely on reading through the product. While many things can be learned by reading through an RPG book, there are also many things that can look good on paper but be horrible when used at the table (and vise versa).
The second thing thing that makes RPG reviews hard to do well is that the style and dynamics of you and your group are probably a bigger factor in whether you’ll have fun with an RPG more so then the rules of the actual RPG itself. In a way, it’s like trying to write a review of a level editor or Gary’s Mod. In many ways, RPGs are a toolbox you use to construct your own game. It’s quite possible to have fun with a poorly written and thought out RPG if your group is cool enough. I ran the Maid RPG with the 91.8 Staff and I imagine we could have fun playing FATAL. That doesn’t mean FATAL is a good game though. That naturally leads to the question of is the Maid RPG a good game?
The Maid RPG is a good game, in that the underlining rules system works well. At the very least, it won’t overwhelm you with system complexity. I was easily able to boil down the basic rules into eight large index cards. Yet the rules cover most of the things an RPG should do like how attributes work, how easy or hard a task should be, NPC creation, rewarding PCs, and its own unique twists.
As a maid, most of the things you do can be resolved by rolling a six-sided dice and multiplying it by the relevant attribute. You will also need to keep track of your Stress (which is funtionally your Hit Points) and your Favor (which is a measurement of how much the master likes you). There’s a couple of other things too but it’s mostly story/flavor elements that don’t affect the game’s rules. They’re more for describing your character and inspiring how to play your maid. It’s a simple game to run for both the gamemaster and players. That means less time fussing over rules and more time for being a maid!
How does one go about pretending to be a maid? Honestly, the only thing I really know about maids is that they’re cute. Most of my previous role playing experience has been with Dungeons and Dragons. I wasn’t sure I would get it but the book provided many tools to communicate the essence of being a maid. The introduction gives basic explanations on RPGs, Maids and game terms. There’s even a listing of maid centered anime/manga (I feel a recommended reading list is an important tool for RPGs) as well as translator notes that take the time to explain things; like sex.
Some people will look at the Maid RPG and assume that it’s designed mainly as an outlet for sexual frustrations/fetishes. While that can exist, it’s meant to be dealt with as in the slice of life genre, or as a side story to an shonen title, and not as a hentai. It’s suppose to be like a sitcom where characters can have romantic interests but rarely act out upon them or succeed in fulfilling them. A group should play in a way that is acceptable to them. In your own game you should be able to set it to a degree that you’re comfortable with.
If you don’t want to screw around with the Maid RPG and actually want to be a maid, then the game has your back. There’s a lot support right in the book for anyone wanting to run the Maid RPG. First off are replays, which are transcripts of actual play sessions done by real people. Their inclusion is one thing that separates Japanese RPGs from Western RPGs. Reading them can help a person understand the general flow of an RPG session or just be a fun read. Personally, they’re not really my thing.
What really is my thing is reading all the adventures or scenarios that came along with the book. There are eleven scenarios included with the book (with an additional five you can download for free from the Maid RPG website) covering a wide range of styles and genres. “Happy Birthday” makes a good introductory scenario where a group can get their feet wet and make heartwarming moments. I ran it myself and it had good results with it. “Secret Base” and “Treasure Hunt!” are good fodder for “problem of the week” episodic hijinks. “Miko RPG” and “Rise of the Demon King” really show how much you can hack it into a completely different genre. Whether you need something to run or are looking for inspiration, there’s an adventure for it.
If you don’t want to bother reading through a scenario, the Maid RPG does suggest two other game types. For one, you can simply have a “favor race” where all the maids compete for the master’s, well, favor. It’s the play mode that provides the least structure, which can be really good or really bad depending on your personal style. It’s great for a group that simply needs a pretense to get going but if you want rules and story to help guide the game, then you may find it lacking. I need a good deal of guidance, even if it’s just random stuff to string together, like in “random” mode. “Random” mode is basically rolling random events and then dealing with whatever comes up. If you’re good at improvising and don’t mind ridiculous results, then this is the game mode for you.
The Maid RPG is especially suited to generating ridiculous results. There are plenty of random tables for character and event generation. For example, it’s possible to be a pyromaniac mermaid who fights off a giant robot with a chainsaw on top of a casino. Or your maid could be an albino infiltrating the mansion to get inspiration for her self made manga but gets trapped in the mansion’s waste disposal facility with a mad cyborg. You could also be a lolita necromancer who gets out of trouble by crying and gambles whenever she gets stressed out. To put it bluntly, the Maid RPG is a freakin’ weird game!
That weirdness makes perfect sense once you learn that the game was designed partly as a satire of the maid fetish in Japan. I imagine the game was designed so that you’ll question the obscure scenarios that arise and how it involved maids. It would also explain why there are rules that severely weaken you if you lose your maid outfit. That’s a refection of how the maid uniform is the focal point of the maid sub-culture. However, I didn’t realize the game was meant as satire until I was told it flat out. I just thought it was intentionally silly.
I also decided not to use the majority of the extra rules included. The Maid RPG book is actually a collection of the original Maid RPG rulebook as well as two other supplements full of optional rules. There are more rules for Masters, Butlers, Mansions, Costumes, Items, Seduction, Comforting, Tragedies, and Apprentice Maids. That’s a lot of extra stuff to use and I haven’t even touched half of it. You can sort through all the extra stuff to select what may or may not suit you. I’ll do my best to help inform your decision.
The normal assumption is that the Master and the Mansion are completely up to the Gamemaster to form in whatever way he or she wants, there are rules if you’re in the mood to have those things generated for you. Sometimes you want to create a setting and sometimes you want to meet the setting. At the very least, they’re a useful tool to inform others about the particular demeanor of a master and mansion.
Costumes can be used to change your maid into something else for a change of pace. I didn’t really try them out since they’re more advanced rules but they are interesting. I also didn’t deal with the Tragedy or Comforting rules. I flat out banned Seduction in my games because I don’t want to deal with that. Items are things that maids can use for various purposes. You can throw items into the game without disrupting it; except when the item does but that’s half the fun, isn’t it?
Butlers and Apprentice Maids are alternate character types for those of you who don’t want to be a maid (but why are you even reading this then?). Butlers are fairly different from maids and can be over powered if a game is mostly the group battling enemies/problems together. If you choose to have a Butler, you’ll need to account for its unique play style and maybe encourage the maids to mess with him. Apprentice maids are simply weaker versions of regular maids. Honestly, those rules aren’t well developed.
As I said before, reading RPGs and playing RPGs are quite different things. I believe that the Maid RPG is an easy to run and play game with plenty of wacky maid themed mayhem. There’s plenty of guidance and a lot of support tools in there for people who need want more stuff for their RPG gaming. If pretending to be a maid sounds like fun to you, then this game definitely delivers on that promise.
If the Maid RPG intrigues you, 91.8 The Fan has plenty of maid goodness to satisfy you! For one, we have an interview with Andy Kittowski, the producer of the English translation version. If you’re a fanatic, then you can check out the podcast where I ran a few sessions of the Maid RPG for the staff. It was totally awesome. Sadly, due to life and such, I haven’t been able to run more sessions of it. I would like to do more though, they are fun. However, I fear it may not happen. After all, it’s only a short while until Tenra Bansho Zero, the second Japanese RPG is brought over to America, is available.