Our Round-Robin Eberron Summer Campaign

We’ve been combating the gaming drought of the summer by playing a bit of Eberron.

I’m spending my time in Espoo, my old hometown, over the summer. This means that I’m not in Tampere, where my regular gaming group is based (we’re now halfway through Paizo’s Rise of the Runelords adventure path, for those keeping count), and anyway, even if I were, most of them have flown to the four winds. This means that the campaign is on a summer break until mid-August when we shall all congregate once more to Tampere, ostensibly to study.

This also means that we had to come up with something else to keep us in the game. Summer is a busy time, though, and  scheduling  games for a regular group isn’t always the easiest thing – so another method was devised.

Anyone can run a game, anyone can play. Any GM desiring a game on a particular day need only announce the game on the campaign website and the group IRC channel and people can then sign up, schedules permitting. There’s not much of an overarching plotline, at least not yet, but some common themes will form. The campaign has only had three sessions thus far, each with a different GM. The pace is strangely slow.

It’s the spiritual successor to Tales from Darkmoon Vale that ran last year over the winter. It was mostly run by Navdi of Blowing Smoke, though, who is absent from this campaign.

The campaign is running on Pathfinder RPG, and is set in the Principalities of Lhazaar. The 3.5 Eberron campaign accessories are quite compatible with PFRPG and when they aren’t, conversion isn’t hard. We’re not entirely sure what to think of the artificer, though.

We’re using an experience point system adapted in part from the Pathfinder Society campaign, in that you get a single point of XP when you show up for a session. The amount of XP needed to climb to next level is the number of your current level. We started at third. Running a session also nets you a point of XP. We realize that as the campaign drags on, this will eventually lead to level differences between the characters of more and less active players, but we figure we can adapt another XP mechanic from another organised play campaign – namely, the level kick used in the old D&D Campaigns of RPGA, like Legacy of the Green Regent and Secrets of Xen’drik. We’re not going the full Communism route that RPGA did, but we should keep the party members within, say, three levels of one another.

There’s also a reason we’re not using Pathfinder Society, which could work rather admirably in the same fashion, which is mostly that now we have more control over the campaign rules and the content and presentation of the adventures, and because back when we originally started to run PFS in Finland, we kept running out of modules and some of them were pretty hideous. I notice with some gratification, though, that they’ve recently been retiring some Year Zero scenarios and their choices are such that they might just as well have been using our reviews as a checklist. Another thing is that we won’t need to keep track of who’s played what, since every session is a different adventure. I haven’t entirely given up on reviving Pathfinder Society in Finland, though.

The campaign started out slow, but seems to be gathering some momentum now. I ran my first session a week ago or so, a take on Heart of Darkness with Colonel Kurtz replaced by warforged who’d been forgotten on an island for twenty years. There’s another session this Sunday, though I will be in Tampere, speaking at Tracon (a post or two on that coming up next week) and cannot attend. Then, I don’t need to.

It’s a theory of mine, by the way, that every GM who games for long enough will eventually run a Heart of Darkness game. I think Alien or Aliens might be another (which I have recollections of doing around 1996-1997).

Another advantage of this system is that we get to try out even oddball character concepts without too much worry of compromising the tone of the campaign, since the tone changes with the GM. My own character is Arimo d’Kundarak, a dwarven summoner (playtest class from the upcoming Advanced Player’s Guide), whose eidolon (think an extraplanar animal companion that you build yourself) is roughly humanoid and, to avoid frightening people, disguised as an armoured dwarf. Arimo introduces the eidolon as Grimmsson, his bodyguard. Grimmsson, due to certain build options and a hat of disguise, has Disguise +24. In Eagle’s Ravine, the party’s base of operations, it’s +28 if the GM is using some optional rules I found in Paizo’s GameMastery Handbook (a brilliant, brilliant book – I’m not promising a review since it’s a 320-page monster, but it’s made of win and awesome and the PDF costs only $9,99 so you can check it out yourself).

This kind of campaign does, though, require that you have a bunch of people with time and the willingness to run games. Out of the ten players who have created characters, half are experienced game masters – from the days of Living Greyhawk, no less, so there are also hoards of unplayed adventure modules that can be adapted. Personally, I used elements of the old Splintered Suns metaregional ESA6-03 River to a Sea of Choices and one of Paizo’s GameMastery modules, W2 River into Darkness for inspiration and various bits that I shamelessly nicked, such as the boat map from the latter.

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