I realized I often write about my involvment with the “Living Arcanis” campaign, but never really explained what the term “Living” actually means. Here is my brief explanation of what a living game is and a list of some of the larger campaigns.
Most role-playing games are very local affairs. A DM and a few players play. They have their own “house rules” and gaming culture. Participating in a game in a new city means new house rules and a new gaming culture, even if the same world, such as Greyhawk or Arcanis is played. A “Living Campaign” (LC) attempts to create a consistent game for all players, regardless of location. They tend to focus on public conventions or game days at game stores because of the marketing benefits to the publisher.
It is not uncommon for the publisher to create/manage an LC to sell more books. Either at game store events or conventions, nothing beats seeing large groups playing a game to sell more copies.
There are several campaigns, running the gamut from high-fantasy to cyberpunk, but they all share similiar charateristics. The most important being centralized “house rules.” A campaign website keeps track of which books are legal in the campaign, any errata for those books and usually a download repository of free modules.
These modules often form a story-arc, just like a television show, complete with cliff-hanger endings. Most of them run in 4-8 hours, keeping them in line with the average time of a convention game slot. Arcanis is on year 6 of the campaign with the same story line!
Another key characteristic is XP tracking. Arcanis tracks XP like a regular home game. WOTC campaigns vary between a standard XP method and a modified version that runs online. They all function on the honor system, since it is trivially easy to cheat on your record keeping.
That, in a nutshell, is it. Bear in mind I am greatly simplifing the rules, and have not even mentioned the thriving and dedicated online communities for these games. The main Arcanis Battle Interactive ( a giant battle with multiple tables of gamers working together for a common goal) at the Origins convention regularly attracts upwards of 200 people. Some of whom fly in from Australia for the event!
Even if you never go to a convention, the free modules alone make checking out these organizations worthwhile.
I do not have the energy to do the research about getting started for each game, but here is a list of campaigns currently in operation or pending start. A Google search might turn up more. This is not a definitive list. Your local game store might have more information about them as well.
Living Arcanis ( Trask’s personal favorite)
Paizo’s Pathfinder ( still under development, has not started yet.)
“Wizards of the Coast” runs their campaigns ( Eberron, Living Greyhawk) through the RPGA website , complete with forums and a reward system for getting “reward cards” after playing X number of games.
Living Greyhawk ends in a few months. WOTC is moving on to a 4th Edition Living Forgotten Realms game.
Shadowrun Missions I have no first hand knowledge of this game, but it looks interesting.
There are several campaigns that are defunct and no longer active. The dead list includes:
Living City (the first LC, as far as I know, started back in the mid 1980s)
Living Kingdoms of Kalamar
Legacy of the Green Regent
If you know of any other games, please post a comment with a link.
I hope you now have a better understanding of “Living Games” and their place in the gaming universe.
Drop me a comment if you have any questions.
Trask, the Last Tyromancer