Sunday, December 31, 2023

2024 Planning: Emirikol

One of the things I want to do in 2024 is organize and re-upload my notes for my D&D 3rd Edition campaign Emirikol, the Chaotic City.  Originally intended to run for 1 year/up to level 6, that game ran from 2007 to 2009, some 100 hours of play, with the PCs going from 1st to 9th level, and was only interrupted when I had to move too far away from the rest of the players.

The things I want to focus on as a potential instruction for other DMs are:

·       How to take a pile of published adventures and turn them into a low-work campaign with decent OSR (as in ‘situations, not stories’) potential. The urban/political environment of Emirikol is, well, chaotic, with lots of things for the players to choose to get involved in, or not. The city and its environs are also riddled with small dungeons for the PCs to explore, or not.

·       How I made use of the now maligned 3E rules to capture the unique swashbuckling world. This involves the creation of campaign specific prestige classes, the emphasizing of skills in combat and feat selection to capture fencing styles, etc. The 3E rules are not really in the OSR mindset, but they do their job well.

·       Why you should do write ups of your game sessions as memory aids.

I expect to do one of these posts every week for 2024, marking the 15-year anniversary of the game’s ending. (I would love to somehow come back to this, but one of the players has since died….) If you find any of this interesting, please comment as I go along.

The origins of the game were simple: after the birth of my daughter in 2006 I realized that complex, built from the ground up games were too much work for my sleep deprived brain. Instead, I went with using only published adventures and using a system I currently had downloaded in my brain, which in 2006 was 3rd Edition D&D. I also ruled we were just using 3E (not 3.5, because I never bought 3.5 and I disagreed with a lot of the engine changes), and just core books. Per the 3.0 DMG I would be building campaign-specific prestige classes and I absolutely didn’t want to deal with too many rules.

One of the players (Jim) said that he had never played in a swashbuckler themed game that got off the ground, and my last attempt at one in 1993/1994 had surrendered to subplot kudzu, so this seemed like a good time to revisit the idea. The published AD&D adventures I had from the mid 80’s on fit well for this, as most of the published adventures at that point had a strong ‘out of the dungeon’ component that made them easy to mesh into an urban politics campaign.

As an aside, I have never understood the contemporary 3E hate: it is a great system. Play for levels 1-6 are wonderful, levels 7-12 are solid, and if it gets creaky after that it’s because in every edition players had made it clear they would run away from the 0-2nd edition endgame of being landed nobility. Yes, there are a lot of other changes from earlier editions that, based on market research, were what players generally prefer. I described it at the time as someone buying a visually sound but structurally decaying manor house and gutting it, leaving the fa├žade intact and replacing the interior with state-of-the-art engineering. Later OSR bought the same house and lovingly restored the interior with as close to original engineering as possible, but lets not pretend restoration wasn’t needed. 3E bought me back to D&D after a half decade away, and if anyone says it’s too complicated, take a look at Earthdawn….