What does that mean? Well, way back in the day, when you went to conventions to play games, all of them were what is now called “classic” format. You showed up and either they had pregen characters ready for you, or there was a quick chargen as part of the session.
Then, they came up with the idea that for large, recurring stuff it would be cool if you could play the same character, ideally your character, from game to game. Thus was born the Living City, set in the Forgotten Realms. You could generate your own character according to slightly-modified 2e rules, and in each session you got XP and treasure you could take to the next game. This required a little complexity and was only suitable for larger efforts, because you had to split players into level ranges and whatnot. (Characters couldn’t “port” between home games and the Living campaign for strict fairness – you can only advance them within the campaign.) And thus was born the “campaign” format of organized play.
When D&D 3e launched, the Living Greyhawk campaign launched, adopting the new rules and innovating a good bit with the Living campaign format. Real-world regions were given fantasy countries they belonged to – for example,w hen it started I was one of the coordinators (Triads) for Tennessee and surrounding and we were assigned the Yeomanry League, which we developed for the campaign. Scenarios could be run not only at larger cons but at smaller game days, or, increasingly, even “at home.” This started off great, although some of the evolution of the “paperwork” involved started to turn me off towards the end of the campaign – like you didn’t have specific gear any more, but could regear at your given gp level but with loads of complex rules tacked onto that. Along with many other things, Wizards has pulled the plug on LG and it ends this year. They’re launching Living Forgotten Realms in 4e at Gen Con this year.
A number of other Living campaigns came and went as well over the years- Living Verge (Alternity), Living Force (Star Wars), Living Arcanis (by another company, even!), something set in Masque of the Red Death IIRC… Many have broken off from the RPGA, like Living Arcanis. Would you like to know more?
The Pathfinder Society
Anyway, that’s a guide to the “campaign” format in general. The Pathfinder Society is a new one being launched by Paizo, set in their world of Golarion and using the D&D 3.5e rules. It’ll switch to Pathfinder when it’s out of beta in 2009 (and this is dubbed “Year 0” of the campaign to reflect its own beta-ness).
The campaign is set in the Paizo world of Golarion. All PCs are members of the Pathfinder Society, an organization of explorers, conquistadors, and adventurers based out of Absalom, the setting’s “big ass city” (equivalent to Greyhawk). So in one sense all the PCs are part of one organization. However, there are different factions inside the organization based on country of origin. on The factions are:
- Andoran – Democracy-loving freedom fighters from the frontier (U.S.A.!!! U.S.A.!!!)
- Cheliax – Decadent civilization what likes summoning the fiends.
- Osirion – Ancient Egypt analogue, they like archaeology and politics.
- Qadira – Ay-rabs. Traders, dervishes, thieves, that sort of thing.
- Taldor – Fading empire looking to get back in the game. Smells like Italy.
The chargen rules are stock 3.5, point buy of stats and fixed hit points (a standard feature of organized play games to prevent roll-cheating), except there’s no magic item creation. Polymorph, reincarnate, and permanency are banned. That’s about it, pretty simple. And there are a number of faction-specific feats available, which is nice.
XP is simplified – 1 XP per scenario, 3 XP gets you a level.
Gear is also abstracted (in old Living City times there were problems with unfair treasure distribution so you have to do something more than normal party-divvying). You get a loot gp value from a scenario and can use it to “buy” items found in the scenario. You can buy items from up to 2 scenarios back if you have to “save up”. So if someone drops a Holy Avenger in that scenario, everyone can buy one at the time or in their next 2 scenarios if they get enough scratch. Also, you can buy +1 stuff or low level items anytime. There’s also prestige awards that unlock other gear (just like faction rep does in World of Warcraft).
It’s all tracked via computer – you gen and register your character on Paizo’s Web site and GMs have to report in scenario results on the site too.
Pretty streamlined. As a former LG Triad, sounds like they know what they’re doing; it should be fun!