Living Campaigns

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There have been about a jillion. In rough order off the top of my head:
Living City (Ravens Bluff in the Forgotten Realms, late 1e AD&D->3e D&D; there were also some spin-offs (Ruins of Ravens Bluff, some other things))
Virtual Seattle (Shadowrun--I think 2e, but I can't remember)
Living Jungle (Jakandor, in the Realms (i think?); 2e AD&D)
Living Death (Masque of the Red Death AD&D 2e, later D&D 3e variant)
Threads of Legend (Earthdawn 1e)
Brethren of the Coast? (I don't know, Rolemaster or something, a pirate setting)
Living Galaxy (Alternity, I think?)
Aphonion Tales (a very small living style game, Skills and Powers AD&D 2e, in a homebrew campaign)
Living Force (Star Wars (d20), don't recall which era)
Living Greyhawk (3e D&D, Greyhawk)
Living Arcanis (3e D&D, Greyhawk)
Blackmoor MMRPG
Legacy of the Green Regent? (I think this was a Forgotten Realms 3e D&D campaign?)
There was some Living Eberron game, but I don't know basically anything about it.
Living Rokugan (Rokugan; I don't remember if this was D&D 3e OA or L5R rules; actually, there may have been both?)
Shadowrun Missions? (I think this was a later Shadowrun living campaign)
Living Realms
Pathfinder Adventures (or whatever the name is for the Pathfinder living campaign in the default Pathfinder world)
Ashes of Athas (D&D 4e Dark Sun)
Living Divine (D&D 4e, proprietary game world)
Is there a Hackmaster living campaign?

I'm also aware of a handful of very small Living style campaigns--I think there was an Ars Magica one announced, but I never actually saw a con it was running at; there was a Men in Black campaign (Operation: [Redacted], or something like that), but I think that was basically one guy at a handful of cons? Also, I guess you could consider the old Torg Infiniverse as kinda a proto-living campaign.

I'm sure I missed a couple of big ones, and the list is probably out of order, but...
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Oh, and it's worth mentioning that both the FLAILSNAILS convention (Playing D&D With Porn Stars: The FLAILSNAILS Conventions) and the Tekumel equivalent have some resemblance to some of the goals of a Living campaign, although those are really more about letting PCs migrate between multiple games with some consistency rather than the living campaign model per se. Also, some individual GMs who run games for large numbers of players have run things on the same scale as the smallest Living campaigns--Gygax's Greyhawk campaign would certainly qualify, but other examples (like the West Marches campaign) would also probably pass the smallest Living campaigns in terms of numbers of distinct PCs, amount of games played, total active players, etc.

Oh, you're right about the Malatra/Jakandor thing--I got the name of the minor setting wrong. I knew more about the campaign than the details of the setting. And you're right about Kalamar--it was Living Kingdoms of Kalamar, then Legends of Kalamar. It may be defunct (website says last updated 2006!), but I'm not sure, and I don't know when it was active.

Erik Mona

Two early spinoffs of the RPGA's Living City campaign were the Living City of Sarbreenar, a smaller UK-based self-contained campaign set in a small town south of Raven's Bluff. To my knowledge, this campaign petered out about the time Living Greyhawk came out, so it's possible that it never had an official third edition version.

The most successful (and one of the longest-running Living-style campaigns of all time) was called the Living City of Procampur, later Legends of the Shining Jewel. This started as a campaign arc in Living City meant to be played with "fresh" new characters under the LC rules (and explicitly set in the Vast of the Forgotten Realms geographically near Raven's Bluff), and eventually grew into its own independent campaign. I believe, but do not know for sure, that the folks who continue to run the Shining Jewel campaign have some kind of license or at least gentlemen's agreement to continue to use the Procampur location, even though most (all?) formal ties with Wizards of the Coast ended years ago.

Paradigm Concepts runs another successful long-running campaign, originally titled Living Arcanis. Living Arcanis grew from a time of mutual cooperation between the RPGA network and other game publishers. This spawned Virtual Seattle, the first non-D&D RPGA-sponsored campaign, and continued throughout the second edition AD&D period and through the first few years of third edition. Paradigm had created Arcanis as a setting for adventures and setting material using the third edition rules under the d20 License. (Living Kalamar, from Kenzer and Company, appeared at about this time, during the height of the "d20 Boom").

Living Arcanis is now known as Legends of Arcanis, and it now uses Paradigm's original Arcanis roleplaying game. The campaign is perhaps most notable for its creation of the "Battle Interactive" concept, in which a whole room of tables participates in a large-scale event like a war or siege, all while sitting around tables with their own GMs. So successful has this format become that an earlier poster to this thread essentially described them as a general summary of what an "interactive" is all about.

Prior to Living Arcanis, most (if not all) interactives involved players wandering around a room with several "activity booths," occasional mini-adventures, and other non-adventure opportunities. The idea (though not wholly the practice) was that once you stepped into an interactive, you "were" your character, and in-character chatter was highly encouraged. Many NPCs (volunteer judges in improvisational mode) dressed in character, and a small number of players did, as well. Typical interactive activities might include fortune telling, buying property, enlisting in a knighthood, jousting, a strong-man contest (ability check rolls, essentially, winner gets some kind of unique magic item, etc.)

Many interactive activities were rewarded with a special certificate you kept with your character and referenced when used in a normal game session. If a bad fortune gave you a gypsy curse, for example, you might get a "cert" explaining the effects of the curse on your character. The Living Death campaign was infamous for giving out completely nasty character-risking curses tinged with so much cool roleplaying potential that avid players actually sought them out. Most certs were beneficial, and because they were designed by amateur game designers and edited under breakneck conditions, they were sometimes VERY beneficial. Which is to say "broken".

In the early Living Campaigns, a more or less unique "cert" was the chase-card of the whole experience. All avid players played the same modules (often ALL of the same modules), and the normal equipment sort of had a mundane feel to it. It was the Christmas Tree effect in practice. At one point in the Living City campaign, you could be reasonably certain that all high-level fighters had a +3 longsword, a +3 short sword, an amulet of life protection (the token of any LC addict), a cloak of protection, etc. Anything more powerful than (or at least different than) the standard always raised eyebrows when deployed by a player at the table, and it kept the thing interesting.

So interactives were basically special cert factories, where people stood in line and got some sort of more or less unique certificate in exchange for some bit of roleplaying and greater immersion in the setting. It was all cloaked in the very entertaining allure of an in-character atmosphere, but a huge part of the popularity of the early interactives had to do with certs.

Frankly speaking, a huge part of the popularity of the Living City campaign itself had to do with certs, and this aspect of the campaign eventually became its undoing. Off to the side at many interactives, players traded certs with one another to get equipment more suitable for their character. The ability to interact and trade with with hundreds of different gamers with different needs to optimize their characters (or to simply have fun with some interesting item) was a major draw to the interactives, and one of their major benefits for a lot of players.

This created an economy for the campaign, and for some players that economy almost became the point of the game. This created a huge gulf in the power level between the haves and the have nots, which turned off a lot of new players. The volunteers who wrote the modules and who often organized the events often had the most powerful and most monty haulish characters, so eventually the narrative of the campaign and many of its special features catered to the interests of these players, which was alienating to a lot of beginner players (and killed them with too-challenging encounters).

The biggest cert-related problem for Living City came with the advent of Third Edition D&D. This forced an existential crisis for the campaign, which had to decide to essentially "start over" with the new rules, or convert everyone's wealth and special certificates from second edition to third. This involved a titanic mail-in database effort that involved cataloging thousands and thousands of magic items and converting them to third edition. This was EARLY in the edition, and all of the conversions were done by volunteers still getting their heads around the new edition themselves. Others will have to chime in with their own impressions, but mine was that the conversion effort, though impressive in that it actually happened at all (and that it happened as a result of a fan vote that decided what to do), added to the sense of bloat and general out of control nature of the campaign (which was a little older than a decade at this point).

In any event, the campaign's successor, Living Greyhawk, started with the Living City "cert" structure, but almost immediately transitioned to an "adventure record" style format that has become more standard (and which allows less or no trading between characters, thus eliminating the shadow economy that was the double-bladed Stormbringer sword of Living City).

By the time Living Greyhawk was in full swing, Wizards of the Coast had licensed the Living City campaign to Ryan Dancey's startup, Organized Play. The campaign limped along for a while, but ultimately collapsed under its own weight shortly thereafter (taking Organized Play with it).

And that's enough for tonight's episode of Off the Top of My Head Theater.

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