Harvestlands Living Campaign Interview

“Living Forgotten Realms” (LFR) is making its “official” premiere at Gen Con this year, but other living campaigns are also starting to appear on the gaming scene. I think they deserve some attention too, so whenver I run across a new campaign, I will post about it.

Haaldaar pointed out that a new 4E “Living” campaign, “Harvestlands ” was starting at Origins this year. Looking for a new source of gaming goodness, we signed up with little information about the campaign specifics.

Seeking more information, I went to the Harvestlands web site, but it is still in the early stages and information is a bit sparse. Rather than just link to the web site, I thought some of my readers might like to know more about this campaign, so I arranged to have a chat interview with Chris Bergstresser, a campaign volunteer, Harvestlands website administrator and informal media liason. The interview was conducted on 5-16-2008.

Here is the content of that chat. I removed some extraneous introduction sections, but otherwise I made no changes to the questions or answers.

1. ok, first question: What is Harvestlands? Why the unusual name?

_Harvestlands_ is a community-driven campaign setting. By that I mean it’s being developed and written, in a collaborative fashion, by a group of volunteers.

The tone of the world is darker than most fantasy settings. Evil is spreading across the land, and most places have fallen prey to one type of disaster or another.

The name is the common name of the world used by the people– _Harvestlands_ refers to the (once) fertile farmlands that cover most of the continent. It’s still largely an agrarian society, and that greatly influences the worldview of most of the population.

2. Can you tell me about the campaign’s genesis? What brought it about?

Sure. When the RPGA announced they were shutting down Living Greyhawk, there were a lot of people who weren’t very happy about it.

A number of people were trying (and still are) to build shared campaign world to take its place.

I was at a few of those meetings, and there were a lot of strange ideas being thrown around as to what it should look like.

The core concepts underlying _Harvestlands_ came out of that. A dark setting, where the elves have disappeared, the dwarves have been enslaved by the duergar, and the gnomes have become completely psychopathic.

I thought it was insane the first time I heard the idea. And that’s not the direction most people wanted to go with a shared campaign world, so nothing came of it for a little bit.

But there’s some fantastic ideas in that rough sketch, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. There’s a lot of really rich material there to set a campaign around.

Some of the other people felt the same way. So we got together, set up a website and community server, and started recruiting volunteers

3. What has the response been like?

Pretty good. The project has cycles–people join, there’s a flurry of activity, then things calm down as we digest what’s happened.

Right now there’s kind of a lull. Things are kind of on hold while we wait for the 4th edition rules.

4. I know it is early in the process, but do you have any comments on the “nuts and bolts” of the MMRPG? Will you copy the Greyhawk regional/metaorg system or try something else?

It’s still too early to tell. Rolling out an official shared world requires a _lot_ of volunteers to properly run and administer. We’re focusing on creating a really compelling world for people to play in first. Once we grow that, then we’re going to look into the mechanics of running a shared campaign, if there’s enough community interest.

The first goal is to publish a Campaign Path, which allows us to really flesh out the different areas of the world and see how things fit together.

Of course, if we get enough volunteers who want to start a shared MMRPG sooner, we’d be delighted. But it’s ultimately a question of manpower.

5. The world seems bleak, very bleak. Slavery, hideous insectoid invaders, plagues and the primary empire has a demon army. Are you trying for a more “adult” game than “Living Greyhawk?”

Yes, and no. Some of the plotlines I remember from Living Greyhawk were pretty bleak.

_Harvestlands_ caters to that, certainly. More than Greyhawk tends to.

But the ultimate goal is to create a world where there’s a chance for heroes to be heroes–to take a stand against the evil and be able to point to specific ways the world is better because you made it so.

6. What is the tone of the game? Is it high-adventure like Eberron, diabolically political like Arcanis or somewhere in the middle?

As a setting, we’re trying to make it broad enough to cater to any story a writer might want to tell. So you can have obscure political maneuvering between the Trajin Empire and the gnomes, or high adventure escorting a goblin merchant through an ancient abandoned kingdom of dragonborn in search of a lost idol.

But the default is probably closer in tone to a gritty, low-to-the-ground campaign, where you start by trying to save villages from specific, immediate threats and slowly broaden your scope to save countries and then ultimately to stand against the forces of evil threatening the world itself.

7. You are using 4th Edition as your rules set? Any concerns about the license?

4th edition is the rules set. We’re specifically shaping the setting to mesh well with D&D 4e.

It shouldn’t be difficult to convert to other systems, although we’re not sure to what extent we’d be able to do that under the GSL.

There are some concerns about the license, although a lot fewer now that we’re sure there’s going to be one. It’s hard to imagine we’ll be prevented from doing everything we really need to make the world work, such as additional feats, class abilities, and rituals.

8. I noticed you are running some slots at the “Origins Game Fair” this year. Is this your big premiere?

I hesitate to say big premiere. It’s certainly the first time you’ll have a chance to see some of what the world is like. We’re hoping people will play the first few adventures and be interested enough in the world to want to play more, or run the campaign path, or volunteer.

9. Are you looking for any specific type of volunteer?
Yes. Enthusiastic ones.

There’s enough that needs doing that we’re sure we can find something useful for everyone. And because it’s a volunteer project, we need people who are willing to step up and take control of pieces.

We could use website administrators, editors, artists, cartographers, writers, etc …

Basically, if people see something that interests them and say “That’s what I want to do” we’re more than happy to let them. We’re quite serious about the quality of what we’re producing. The more volunteers we have, the more likely we can give every piece the attention it deserves.

With that, I thanked Chris for his time and ended the interview. I hope that this post provides some insight in to a new, and to my mind, interesting alternative to the “big” living campaigns.

For further information on the campaign or volunteering, please contact “Harvestlands” directly at their website, www.harvestlands.com.

Trask, The Last Tyromancer



Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.