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Living Campaigns are a gaming format within the table-top role-playing game community that provide the opportunity for play by an extended community within a shared universe. In contrast to traditional isolated role-playing games, living campaigns allow and encourage players to develop characters that can be played at games run by many different game masters, but which share a game world and campaign setting, as well as a plot line that is overseen by a central core of professional or volunteer editors and contributors. Many living campaigns serve a dual role of providing a creative outlet for highly involved volunteer contributors while also serving as a marketing tool for the publisher of the game system that is the focus of the living campaign. While the earliest living campaigns were run by the RPGA (Role Playing Gamer's Association), now a division of Wizards of the Coast, many groups around the world run active living campaigns which are independent or sponsored by other publishers.
Living campaigns are a shared campaign setting with a codified set of rules for the campaign that govern how to build and advance characters as well as how the campaign will handle rules elements of the setting. Campaign staff create, distribute, and manage new adventures in that campaign setting, and quite often administer a player database and promote various products. A living campaign lets players build and advance characters, develop their personalities, and forge relationships. Living campaign games are run at conventions, game days and other gatherings. The rules for character tracking allow a player to take their PC they created for the campaign to any of these gatherings and play it in the adventures offered. It is still common for adventures to be offered at conventions with premade characters that fit to the story, but Living campaigns allow for additional options.
The original Living campaign was the Living City, set in the Forgotten Realms city of Ravens Bluff. The campaign ran in its original form in Polyhedron magazine starting in the mid-1980s, and continued until shortly after the advent of 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) in 2000. It then restarted under the auspices of the company Organized Play, but lasted only two years under that license and then reverted in 2003 to Wizards of the Coast.
RPGA Living Campaigns
Wizards of the Coast/RPGA-sponsored Living campaigns:
- Living Forgotten Realms: launched in August 2008 at Gen Con.
- Ashes of Athas: Announced in late 2010 and first released at D&D Experience 2011, this story-driven ongoing campaign used the D&D 4th Edition rules and was set in the Dark Sun setting. Chapters of three linked adventures premiered at each of the D&DXP, Origins Game Fair, and Gen Con gaming conventions. Adventures were made available for wider play after their initial release. A total of seven chapters (each consisting of three rounds of 4-hour play) were released. The campaign concluded at Winter Fantasy 2013, although adventures can be ordered at no cost.
- Living Divine: launched at Gen Con 2011.
The following campaigns are no longer in existence or have ended but still have adventures available:
- Legacy of the Green Regent (2003–2006)
- Living Arcanis (2001–2009)
- Living City (1987–2004)
- Living Jungle
- Living Death (1997–2007)
- Living Force (2002–2007)
- Living Greyhawk (2000–2008)
- Living Spycraft (2002-2007)
- Mark of Heroes (2004–2006)
- Sarbreenar the Living City (1992-2008)
- Virtual Seattle
- Xen'drik Expeditions (2006–2008)
- Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Rodney Thompson, "D&D Experience Podcast" at 2:02, Wizards of the Coast "D&D Podcast", February 11, 2011. Retrieved April 30, 2011.
- Matt Dukes, "DDXP 2011 Recap Part Deux", Critical Hits, February 8, 2011. Retrieved April 30, 2011.
- Chris Sims, "The D&D Experience", Critical Hits, February 4, 2011. Retrieved April 30, 2011.