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When I was a kid I sat at a huge table with two other kids. We had an enormous sheet of paper laid across the whole table and a lot of pencils. The obvious thing to do, having fairly recently discovered role-playing games, was to make a map.
Of course, being kids in the 70s, all games were essentially role-playing games, and the let’s-draw-a-map game was no different. A coastline appeared, cities sprouted, extended, evolved. Submarine pens, airstrips, citadels all made appearances and warfare was inevitable. It was a grand story told by the three of us as we drew and explained our narrative over several evenings.
That map is long gone but, more than thirty-five years later, I still want to play it. Callisto is my latest effort to recapture some of that play.
Callisto is a play-by-mail game based on the olden days back when we played by actual mail. Yes we actually sent pieces of paper with writing on them (handwriting, almost always) through the post with our orders on them and some poor sod collated them and sent back responses.
In Callisto some large number of players will control the actions of persons of note in a mythical place. They will be barons, kings, admirals, mercenary captains, tinkerers, philosophers, outlaws — the possibilities are endless but the running theme is that they will be important. The rules of Callisto will guarantee that they are important.
One person, however, will control no one. This is the referee. The referee is not a dungeon master, a game master, nor a story teller. They are a facilitator: they read all the mail and they extract element of note and make those bits public. They adjudicate the rules as needed. They keep track of changes in the characters’ defining statistics. They do not guide the progress of the game.
The players do that.