One of my favorite games of all time has to be the Leviathan campaign, run by my friend Scott. It’s probably one of the longest campaigns we played as well. As Scott described it in his original document from 2003, “Adventure in a world of merchant princes, pirate treasure, ancient ruins, noble orders, and the all too ready death that lurks below the surface of the world sea.” The campaign had a swashbuckling, Renaissance feel to it, personified by my character, a bard named Rafael Ceurdepyr (about whom more in R is for Rafael).
The rules we used included action points, a number of points usable to reroll low dice results or perform amazing stunts; low magic; starting backgrounds, such as aristocrat, criminal, rascal, soldier, street rat or student; lives, meaning each player began with 1d4+2 “lives,” representing “your chances to cheat death and recover from wounds that would otherwise be fatal,” although only the gamemaster knew how many lives the character has; and gunpowder weapons. Races allowed were humans, the predominant race; half-elves; goblins; paragoblins, which was Rafael’s race, resulting from a human-goblin interbreeding; and ogrun, somewhat similar to half-orcs.
Here’s Scott’s description of the present world, 2500 years after the great Cataclysm:
Seven Great Houses and the Parliament govern the Archipelago Concord States. The Seven Great Houses are more businesses than aristocratic dynasties, although they are that as well. A merchant patriarch, who speaks for the House and sets policy, rules each. The House Rayale is the largest and most powerful, being the house that successfully crossed the Sundering Sea, it now enjoys a near monopoly on trade in Dwarven made goods. The House Merlyean is the next most powerful, and the primary maker of ships in the Human-Goblin controlled States. The House Grumalaniakin is the only Goblin Great House, it is the primary source of chemical substances, dyes, medicines, and plant based oils. The Sunrod House controls the few mining operations in the Shallow Sea, as well as most of the heavy industry, it is the arch-rival of the House Rayale. The most peaceful house is the Granmar. The Granmar House controls the most land, and manages the vast agricultural lands of the larger islands. The House Hienter specializes in fishing and harvesting the sea while its major ally,the smallest house, House Ferinne deals in light industry and various types of trade.
The houses are a constantly shifting battleground. Rarely does it come to outright war, but each house maintains its own militias and armed fleets. They vie for power over the lesser houses, the city-states they do not control out right, and the Trade Guilds. Espionage, assassination, betrayal, and subversion are the common tools of the merchant patriarchs.
The Parliament serves as a check on the Great Houses, although a small one. Given the power to tax and regulate trade the Parliament sets tariffs and grants rights to shipping lanes, new islands, and various other resources. These various sets of licenses and taxes serve as fertile ground for pirating and smuggling, for there is always profit to be had in skirting tariffs. This is a trade and tactic well known to the Major Houses. The Parliament is made of the Lesser Houses, most of whom rule the city-states or various subsidiary industries for the Great Houses, the major guild representatives, and officials from the Faith of Alyander. The Elven Fleets also send representatives, always human in their hire, to Parliament to speak on their behalf, but they have no formal vote. The Parliament meets once every three years, at which time it elects a Prime Minister and a Cabinet who do most of the business of Parliament. Admission to Parliament is made by petition to Parliament based on societal influence and must be ratified by a majority vote. That rarely happens
The main islands of the ACS are the Six Sons, a chain of large islands all but completely dominated by the Great Houses. At any given time there are as many as 100 smaller islands, some equaling the smaller of the Six Sons down to a few miles across, that are also nominally controlled by the ACS, its companies, houses, or members.
Outside the ACS, within the Shallow Sea, are several Freeholds, the largest of which is Nan. It, and others like it, are seen as pirates and outlaws by the Great Houses, but are often employed in their schemes. In reality Nan and its fellows are haven for free enterprise of one sort or another, at best, and petty slaver kingdoms at worst.
The Dead Isles are the remains of the Gnome Republic. For generations no one lived there. In the last 100 years they have been colonized, but little is known about them in the ACS.
The Elf Fleets travel the world, never allowing a member of another race to travel beyond the Shallow Sea with them. Occasionally large fortress-towns enter the Shallow Sea, and rumors of larger ones remain. The elves are on friendly terms with many of the freeholds as well as the ACS. Captains and Admirals govern them, in a semi-informal military structure. They never set foot on land voluntarily. When elves set foot on lnad involuntarily it usually precipitates into suicide, both of the elf in question and the town or ship that harbored his tormenters. Elves are as fierce as any when it comes to dealing with pirates, but they will in no wise tolerate being taken to land. To force an elf to land is to invite the wrath of every elf in the Shallow Sea, and perhaps beyond. Many wise men know to leave the elves alone if they wish it, but only fools ignore them.
The Dwavenholms across the Sundering Sea are dug into the Last Land and are vast and ancient. Their rule, customs, and laws are largely unknown to the human culture, and only speculations are possible. Some form of clan and guild hybrid rules, dominated by great Patriarchs and Keepers of Tradition.
There are many small islands that are home to tribal cultures at the edges of the Shallow Sea. Most of the races there are Human, Orc, or Goblinoid.
What’s your favorite campaign of all time? Comment below.