Hex Encounter: The Fist of Enshakushanna

The following is the first hex encounter I had my players stumble across when we started the First Cities campaign. My plan over the next few weeks is to drop a few more of these on the blog before returning to some more world-building posts.


Located on a windswept grassy hill on the edge of the Sea of Grass, this 10 ft tall statue is made of polished basalt and is shaped like a single fist jutting straight up from a square pedestal. The palm of the fist faces to the southwest (back toward Khamaz), while the top of the fist looks northeast. Along the pedestal there is a message in Im’sarra script – four copies on the southwest side and four on the northeast side. The four messages per side are duplicate versions of the same message, using the four main languages of Khamaz (Salmukaran, Agadian, Niŝiri, and Qattaran). The statue dates to the reign of of the great Niŝiri king Enshakushanna nearly 800 years ago. If translated, it reads:

“Enshakushanna, Great King, King of the Four Quarters, King of the World, Fist of Niŝ, Servant of the Great God, First in Battle, Destroyer of Estates, He Who Lays the Yoke Upon His Foes, conquered all lands, all of them, from the Lower Sea to the Grass Waste. He trod his foot where no king before did. He washed his weapons in the sea. All knelt before him and kissed the earth.

Whoever obliterates this inscription, may Niŝ uproot him and destroy his lineage!”


Design Notes: The name Enshakushanna comes from a real Mesopotamian king of the Ur 3rd Dynasty period, but here I’m using it for the greatest and cruelest Niŝiri monarch (with the Niŝiri being my analogs for the Assyrians). The text of the inscription is closely adapted from inscriptions of the Akkadian king Sargon, who was the first monarch to unite all the regions of Mesopotamia under one rule in the 3rd Millennium BCE. Recalling that encounter, my players got into a great in character debate about entering a land where kings laid “yokes” upon its people. Fear of the Turok Horde (and the imperatives of the game) eventually drove them forward.


Featured Image: Text from the Codex Hammurabi, Louvre, Paris, used by Creative Commons License.


Random Tribal Seasonal Events Chart

I’ve structured First Cities game sessions around seasons, whereby two game sessions equal one calendar season passing. I find this focus on the longue durée helpful for impressing upon my players the broader scope of the game. It also allows me to do things like the chart below.

Between each calendar season in the campaign, I have a player roll on the Random Tribal Seasonal Events chart. The purpose of this chart is to add a bit of lived randomness to the tribe’s long-term campaign. Stuff happens between the seasons, after all. Most of the entries on the chart muck with tribal assets and resources, but some of the entries also create circumstances or plot hooks the elder moot can or must deal with in some way.

For help interpreting what some of the monetary notations mean in this chart, see my previous post on the economic system I’m using for First Cities.

Random Tribal Seasonal Events

Die Roll



Bounty – Tribe has good foraging; increase tribal Food Resources by 1d4 X .25 points


Discovery – Tribe discovers hidden cache of ancient bronze weapons (1d6 sm value)


Disaster – Foul weather & flash floods hit tribe; 1d8+4 tribal members & 4d8 livestock killed


Bane – Rustlers attack tribal herds, stealing 2d20 livestock


Bounty – Seasonal cultivation successful; increase wheat or barley assets by 1d4 X 15 bariga


Discovery – Tribe discovers a hidden cache of clay tablets, some of magical origin


Bane – Tribal foraging is poor; decrease tribal Food Resources by 1d4 X .25 points


Discovery – Tribe locates the lair of a regional monster or animal


Disaster – Tainted water hole sickens tribe; 1d6+2 tribal members & 4d6 livestock die


Bounty – Tribe discovers ruins of recent settlement & able to scavenge 1d4 sm of material goods


Discovery – Tribe discovers entrance to underground ruin


Disaster – Freak weather hits region, lasting for 2d8 +3 days; decrease all tribal resources by 1d4 X .5 points each for weather damage


Bane – Passing refugees speak of the imminent coming of the Horde, causing panic in the tribe


Bounty – Tribe encounters trading caravan & has success trading; increase of tribal assets of: 1 – unworked copper; 2 – wool cloth; 3 – spices; 4 – clay or copper tools; 5 – beer; 6 – wheat – by 1d6 sm


Disaster – Disease sweeps through livestock; 2d20+10 livestock die


Bane – Regional warlord threatens tribe & demands tribute for living on his lands


Bounty – Tribe discovers remains of attacked caravan & scavenges 1d4 sm worth of gemstones from an overlooked cache


Disaster – Disease sweeps through the tribe; decrease population due to death by 2d12 +10


Discovery – Tribe finds a previously unknown settlement in the region


Bane – Wild animals periodically attack tribal herds; 2d8 livestock killed


Bounty – Wandering refugee and family joins tribe & brings craft knowledge (1 – metalworking; 2 – leatherworking; 3 – pottery; 4 – weaponsmithing); increase Tech Resources by 1d4 X .25 points


Bane – Experiments w/ craftwork fail; decrease Tech Resources by 1d4 X .25 pts


Disaster – Clan feuding leads to a purge; decrease number of tribal clans by 1d2, resulting in population and asset loss


Discovery – Investigation of nearby caves reveal mineral resources: 1 – gold; 2 – silver; 3-4 – copper; 5 – tin; 6 – iron ore


Bane – Internal feuding between two clans affects tribal security; decrease Security Resources by 1d4 X .5 points


Discovery – Tribe discovers a small ruin that contains a secret treasure


Bounty – Wandering nomads join tribe; increase tribal population by 1d20, plus resources


Roll again, rolling two times, both events happen


Disaster – Regional raiders attack tribe; tribe broken and scattered (end of tribe as distinct unit; tribal resources gone)


Featured Image: “Bride Kidnapping,” used by Creative Commons License from Wikimedia Commons.

The Absence of Coins: Developing the Economics of Khamaz

Developing a D&D campaign based on the Bronze Age Ancient Near East comes with a particular set of problems when dealing with historical fidelity and economics. Dungeons and Dragons, like most medieval fantasy tabletop RPGs, relies on a gold-backed coinage system, where players purchase their equipment with gold coins they find trolling through underground dungeons or earn from nobles and kings for murder-hobo jobs done well. In terms of historical realism, this is fairly ridiculous (can you imagine the local inflation every time adventurers rolled into a small village and spent the loot they found in a dungeon?). However, it is also damn convenient, establishing easily understood metrics for value in equipment and treasure. After all, if you need an economics degree to play a game, something’s amiss.

However, for campaign settings inspired by societies and cultures that predate Ancient Greece and Rome, this coinage shorthand is a problem. In Bronze Age Mesopotamia, nobody used coins for economic transactions and transfers because coinage had not been invented yet (Iron Age Anatolia, most likely the Kingdom of Lydia, around 600 BCE, if you are curious). In looking through certain RPG products inspired by Bronze Age societies, it seems that most designers have merely waved their hands and grafted on coins for simplicity’s sake, although there is sometimes an attempt to acknowledge the issue. For instance, in the Biblical era inspired RPG Testament, the author Scott Bennie dives into the coinage issue before moving on to suggest that GMs wanting to maintain historical fidelity should adopt a barter style economic system when running Testament, complete with procedures for adjudicating opposed skill checks while bartering. This has its own problems in that pre-coinage economic systems most certainly didn’t use barter systems either (go read chapter two of David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years for more on the myth of barter).

So in designing the First Cities campaign and developing the world of Khamaz, the problem of the economic system was a pretty big roadblock for me. What exactly was I supposed to do? Give up and use the standard D&D campaign and hope it didn’t affect the verisimilitude of my game world? Or try to find some way to simulate Bronze Age economics more accurately while not bogging down game play?

The solution came from a source that was one of my original inspirations for developing the First Cities Campaign. Some time last summer, I stumbled across a blog detailing information about a homebrew campaign world for AD&D 1E called simply ERIDU. Described as an “AD&D Fantasy RPG Campaign for a Bronze Age Weird Mesopotamia,” the short-lived blog has a number of entries detailing place locations, character classes, and art inspirations, all of which helped me consider various aspects of the First Cities campaign. However, what really caught my attention was a blog post on using a silver-based non-coinage economic system for the setting, which you can poke into here. This was exactly what I was looking for in terms of verisimilitude, so I cribbed the hell out of it (as you will immediately see if you compare ERIDU’s system and the one below). The following are the notes I made for myself, using the ERIDU system as a base and then adding in some other details as I grappled with making a base-60 sexadecimal economic system work for my campaign world.


There are no coin-based money systems in the First Cities campaign. While most exchanges are through either limited barter (i.e., the swapping of like goods) or payments in kind (e.g., workers being paid in rations of grain), there is a system based on standardized weights of precious metals that will form the basis of game exchange when it comes to player activities. It’ll work as follows.

Silver and copper are the standard metals of exchange, usually denominated by a system representing weight (again, not actual coins). The key denominations are the shekel, the mina, and the talent. In terms of how much these denominations physically weighed, 1 shekel is roughly 1/3 oz, 1 mina is roughly 17 oz, and 1 talent is 66 lbs. The conversions are:

  • 60 silver shekel (ss) = 1 silver mina (sm)
  • 3600 shekel (ss) = 60 mina (sm) = 1 talent (st)
  • 1 silver shekel (ss) = 3 copper mina (cm) = 180 copper shekel (cs)

Silver is most often found in standardized, coil-shaped rings called hullu, usually in 1, 5, and 10 shekel coils, as well as 1/2 mina and 1 mina coils. Copper shekels and mina are crude, unworked lumps.

Gold exists in this campaign world as well, but tends to be used for static or large wealth (e.g., kept in temple vaults) and not as a medium of common exchange. Gold is most often found in hack bar format or as ingots. The conversions are as follows:

  • 1 gold shekel (gs) = 20 silver shekels (ss)
  • 3 gold shekels (gs) = 1 silver mina (sm)
  • 60 gold shekels (gs) = 1 gold mina (gm)
  • 1 gold mina (gm) = 20 silver mina (sm)

In terms of volume, ancient Mesopotamia used various terms denoting the size of a container holding an item, usually barley, that then became standardized over time. The sizes and their approximate conversions are as follows:

  • 1 sila (bowl) = ~ 1 liter
  • 1 ban (vessel) = 10 sila
  • 1 bariga (bushel) = 6 ban or 60 sila
  • 1 gur = 30 ban or 300 sila

Standard values for treasures, gems, and all other loot will normally be given in silver shekels. A quick conversion for D&D 3.5 is:

  • 1 3.5 gp = 3 ss/540 cs
  • 1 3.5 sp = 54 cs
  • 1 3.5 cp = 5.4 cs.

What follows is a short listing of base commodities, culled from ERIDU and a number of historical sources, which were used to peg the 3.5 conversion above:

  • 1 gur of barley = 1 ss
  • 1 goat = 3 ss
  • 1 sheep = 6 ss
  • 9 talents, Asphalt = 1 ss
  • 1 bear pelt = 15 ss
  • 50-100 bricks = 1 ss
  • Building plot, in town = 8-16 cm
  • 1 talent, unworked bronze = 36 ss
  • 2 mina, worked copper = 1 ss
  • 3 mina, unworked copper = 1 ss
  • 1 bariga, dates = 1 ss
  • 2 mina, glass ingots = 15 ss
  • 1 year rental, small house = 4 ss
  • 1 small house in city, purchase = 2 sm
  • 1 mina, lead ingot = 23 cs
  • 1 lion pelt = 18 ss
  • 1 year rental, orchard = 5 ss
  • 1 ban, sesame seeds = 1 ss
  • 3 ban, sesame oil = 1 ss
  • 1 slave = 20-40 ss
  • 1 slave family = 1 sm
  • 1 mina, tin ingot = 5 ss
  • 6 mina, wool = 1 ss
  • 6 shekel, purple-dyed wool = 1 ss
  • Plot of land, with fields, a house, and some slaves = 5 gm


From here, I set to work doing quick conversions for all the items in the equipment section of the 3.5 Player’s Handbook that fit technologically in my Bronze Age-esque setting. Actually, I was originally going to use AD&D 1E for the campaign, so I did the first conversion for that. I then changed my mind and considered using the Adventurer Conqueror King system (ACKS) for the First Cities Campaign, so I converted all that as well. Then I settled on 3.5 using E6 rules and did the final conversion. Needless to say, I was a little converted out at that point.

In terms of gameplay, this system has worked pretty well. One of the reasons for that is I have largely kept all this complexity behind the curtain, so to speak. As the conceit of the campaign involves the players coming from the steppe into the settled river valley, I hid all this from them during character creation. As such, they’ve only had to start grappling with it as their characters encountered NPCs using it. I think this has added an additional sense of exploration for the players, as they haven’t been able to fall back completely on simply knowing both the standard D&D prices and when a merchant might be robbing them blind. That I also use dice rolls to muck with the base prices from time to time  (rough equivalents for inflation and price fluctuation by region) also keeps them on their toes. It has been fun watching the players deal with this.


Featured Image: Hoard of Ancient Gold Coins, used by Creative Commons License from Wikimedia Commons.

Khamaz – The God’s Flood Way

Instead of having my players encounter and explore ancient Mesopotamia for the First Cities campaign, I decided I would make my own setting heavily inspired by the cities, peoples, and cultures of the Ancient Near East. Although in some ways more difficult when it comes to grafting historical and technological detail onto the new setting, it has the benefit of giving me flexibility in how I want all the pieces to fit together. For example, having iron-wielding Neo-Assyrian style armies running around fighting the Bronze Age Babylonian soldiers of Hammurabi would be anachronistic and ridiculous, but in Khamaz that disparity can exist, needing only to overcome my own desire for proper historical fidelity.

The capsules below provide some basic snapshots of the key regions and peoples of Khamaz itself, which is a collective term for the peoples, states, and societies that live along the great Mala and Puratta river valleys. True knowledge of the name’s origin has been lost to time, but learned scholars throughout Khamaz generally believe that it originally meant “the God’s Flood Way.”

Framed by vast deserts in the east, mountains in the north and west, and the Lower Sea to the south, Khamaz is a semi-arid region made up of a dual river system fed by innumerable tributaries and with a landscape peppered with lakes, lagoons, and mud flats.

The Land of Khamaz

The Land of Khamaz


Salmukar, “The Black Land” — A flat alluvial plain stretching along the lower reaches of the Mala and Puratta Rivers, Salmukar was where the estates of the gods first arose — legendary places like decadent Warka, holy Eridu, and mighty Bābilum. Using irrigation networks to channel the life-giving river water in a region with little rainfall, few natural resources, and violent, unpredictable flooding, the Salmukarans built a powerful and prosperous civilization out of mudbrick, reeds, and a bounty of food grown in nutrient-rich soil clawed back from the desert. Originally home to the round-headed and dark haired Salmukaran people, the region has grown steadily more diverse with the influx of the angular-featured Agadians from the west. All great religion, literature, and culture throughout Khamaz comes from the ancient estates of Salmukar, as well as most magicks and divination.

Ancient WatchmanNiŝir, “Land of Niŝ” — Centered on the middle reaches of the river valleys and framed by hills and steppe land, Niŝir is a prosperous region of merchants and military might, where rainfall not irrigation fuels farming and the rivers are less prone to flooding and shifting courses. With better access to natural resources and a strategic location situated between north-south and east-west trade networks, Niŝir has a stranglehold on all of Khamaz when it is able or chooses to exercise it. With a heritage that includes the ancient estates of Ninuwa and Kahlu, the great god Niŝ and his exhortations for expansion and conquest, and Enshakushanna, the only Khamazi priest-king to have ever conquered the whole region, the peoples of Niŝir are known throughout Khamaz for their military prowess, abject cruelty, personal wealth, and the distinctive blue-beards of their priest-kings. And having recently gone through many generations of infighting and decline, the newly-united Niŝiri people are once again keen to expand their influence up and down the river valleys.

Subartu, “Spring of the Wild Rivers” — This region is the hilly area along the upper reaches of the river valleys where the great Mala and Puratta Rivers have their origin. Home largely to the Khurrites, an olive-skinned, stocky people who were once nomads from the great eastern steppe land known as the Sea of Grass, it is the least developed of the inhabited regions of Khamaz, having only three estates worth any mention: Gargamis, Harari, and Dimaŝqa. As such, it is often the focus of raiding for slaves and other resources by the estates farther down the rivers. Recently, Niŝiri interference in the region has grown as Khamazi trade connections with the east have grown more important.

Qattara, “The Sparkling Hills” — Qattara was once a lush, tributary region of the Puratta River located just to the east of Salmukar. Called the Sparkling Hills because of the jeweled and mineral wealth easily dug out all over the region, the Qattaran people grew rich supplying raw materials and precious metals to the resource-starved estates in Salmukar. However, many generations ago, a ruinous cataclysm known as the Storm of Sand befell Qattara, scattering its people and laying waste to the region. Since then, Qattara and its chief city, the ruined estate of Bad-tibira (“Fortress of the Smiths”), are home only to howling desert demons, beasts of Tiamat, and the living dead.

Passing_lion_BabylonHanigalbat, “The Beast Hills” — Known as a rugged hill country beyond the northern reaches of the river valleys that teems with wild and dangerous beasts, the Hanigalbat is the gateway region for trade between Khamaz and the exotic lands of Hind and Megarra in the east. It also borders on the desolate Sea of Grass, which stretches away to the north and the east. Once home to a powerful Khurrite kingdom centered on the city of Aranzahas that was destroyed by the Niŝiri king Enshakushanna, the region has only in the last several generations begun to see significant Khurrite expansion again. Today its chief settlement is the small Khurrite town of Agha situated along the western edge of Lake Kabira.

The Abominable Desolation — Also known as the Empty Quarter, this desert landscape of howling winds, savage sandstorms, and malignant demons is also home to the vicious desert nomads known as the Amurru. Despite these dangers, explorers and mercenaries continually try to probe the Deep Desolation for its secrets. What fuels this are legends that speak of strange spires jutting out of the sands in the interior and powerful artifacts of divine providence resting in hidden tombs, as if the expanding wastes had once swallowed up several ancient and forgotten civilizations in the unremembered past.


Design Annotations

  • The names I chose for the great rivers of Khamaz — Mala and Puratta — are ancient names for the Euphrates river (Mala is Hittite I believe and Puratta is a form of the Akkadian name Purattu). I would have used an ancient name for the Tigris for one of the rivers, but I didn’t like how any of them sounded. 
  • In terms of analogs, the historical regions I’ve mapped my regions to break down like this: Salmukar=Sumer and Akkad; Niŝir=Assyria; Subartu=Syria; Hanigalbat=Anatolia; Qattara=Elam; and the Abominable Desolation=the Syrian and Arabian deserts.
  • The name “Salmukar” is a made-up word. I’m pretty sure I was playing around with the name “Samarkand” and just changing syllables and the like until I found something that sounded good. A linguistics professor friend of mine says I was using phono-semantic analogy or matching to make the word, so I’ll go with that. The city names break down as Warka=Uruk (Warka is the modern place name) and Bābilum=Babylon (just an ancient version of the name), while Eridu was an actual Sumerian city, sometimes regarded within Sumerian mythology as the first city.
  • The name “Niŝir” is another made-up word, chosen mainly for its similar sound and structure to the ancient name for Assyria proper, Aŝŝur. The cities mentioned — Ninuwa and Kahlu — are just the Assyrian names for the cities of Nineveh and Nimrud. Finally, Enshakushanna was a Sumerian king mentioned on the Sumerian King List as having ruled over Ur in the 3rd Millennium BCE.
  • The name “Subartu” comes from a region in northern Mesopotamia believed to be located just north of the old Assyrian heartland along the Tigris or perhaps is actually an older name for the region of Assyria itself. The city names work out to Gargamis=Carchemish; Harari=Mari; and Dimaŝqa=Damascus, which are all actual ancient names for these cities.
  • The name “Qattara” comes from a small region in northern Mesopotamia as well, which you can find information on here if you so desire. “Bad-tibira” is the actual name of an ancient Sumerian city.
  • The name “Hanigalbat” comes from a region to the west of the Assyrian heartland in northern Mesopotamia. It is sometimes also associated with the Bronze Age state of Mitanni. I don’t recall where I ganked the name of “Agha” from, but it’s an ancient place name in the region as well.
  • Calling my analog for the Syrian and Arabian deserts the “Abominable Desolation” comes straight from Morten Braten’s Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia campaign sourcebook published in 2004 by Necromancer Games, which has been a great source of inspiration for my development of First Cities. I just like the way my players blanch whenever the name gets mentioned.


Featured Image: Sumerian Chariot Image from the Royal Standard of Ur, used by Creative Commons License from Wikimedia Commons.

Body Image #1: “Ancient Watachman” by Okko Pyykkö, used by Creative Commons License.

Body Image #2: “Passing Lion” from the Ishtar Gate, Babylon, used by Creative Commons License from Wikimedia Commons.

Designing a Civilizational Hexcrawl

When originally designing First Cities, I knew right away that I wanted to structure the campaign as a hexcrawl. For those unfamiliar with the term, a hexcrawl is a RPG campaign approach where the DM builds a setting; maps it to a large hex map; keys the hexes with locations, lairs, and encounters; and then let’s the players go wherever they choose — like playing in a sandbox really. There are a lot of great resources on the Internet for tackling your own hexcrawl, including a series of posts at The Alexandrian and a round-up of Old School Fantasy Hexcrawl Resources at Gnome Stew, both of which I found very useful.

However, I also knew that I wanted to do more than a straightforward hexcrawl. I wanted to add a twist that gave the players something more to accomplish than merely discovery for discovery’s sake. What I settled on is a campaign structure I’ve taken to calling a civilizational hexcrawl. In it, I’ve merged the traditional planning, procedures, and game play of an old school fantasy RPG hexcrawl with a goal-driven resource management component one typically sees in digital games like Civilization or the Total War series.

As I noted in my previous post (“First Cities Campaign Premise”), I’ve structured First Cities around a tribal exploration dynamic where the players run the Sakas tribe as it moves into the river valley of Khamaz, home to the First Cities of Humanity. The players engage the premise on two levels: 1) they control the elder moot, made up of various tribal elders who make the key strategic decisions for the tribe (e.g., how are new resources divided up, where should the tribe move for the season, where should the tribe’s rangers and outriders explore this season, etc.); and 2) they control the key rangers and outriders for the tribe that carry out the objectives determined by the elder moot.

Now the rangers/outriders component is pretty straightforward; it’s the D&D PC play time — dungeon crawling, wandering monsters, chaotic combats, and all that. Thus, at the moment, I don’t need to focus too much on this part. What I want to explore more fully is the elder moot component.


During game time, the elder moots have usually been great excuses for the players to flesh out the personalities and relationships of their tribal elders as they shoot the shit and decide what the tribe will be doing for that evening’s session. However, there is a more structured role for them as well; they must manage and develop the tribe’s material wealth and prosperity. It works as follows.

There are two main metrics for measuring the prosperity of the tribe: Resources and Assets. Under Resources, there are three sub-categories (Food, Tech, and Security), which are represented by abstract points measured against a tiered-scale. Under Assets, there are also three sub-categories (Wealth/Material Goods, Military, and Herd), which are represented by actual items and traditional RPG conventions (e.g., we recovered ten lion pelts and eighteen goats from that Gutian camp we raided).

While adventuring, the ranger/outrider PCs find rewards that include not only mineral based wealth and magic items, but also technology, food resources, mundane items, and so on. If the PCs turn this material over to the tribe, it’s converted into points using simple conversion rates I deveoped and added to the appropriate resource category. Conversion is also one way, meaning that once some item has been converted to Resource points, players can’t use it later as a tangible item during game play. Other wealth and material goods not converted into Resource points, along with herd animals and human military assets gained by the tribe fall under the Assets category, which serves as a pool of wealth the elder moot can use for trade, gift exchange, or whatever.

The Resource points, which can range from zero to forty-five, represent the tribe’s growth or decline in a particular area vital for its survival. As the numbers change, they fall within a series of tiers, which break down as follows: 0 / 2.5 / 5 / 15 / 45. Each tier has a benefit or penalty attached to it, which affects the tribe depending upon which Resource category point total is in which tier. The first two tiers represent sub-optimal conditions for the tribe; the middle tier is subsistence; and the last two represent advanced development.

Mechanically, the benefits and penalties are attached to die rolls, ranging from a -2 penalty in Tier I to a +2 bonus in Tier V. For Food Resources, this modifier affects all physical ability checks, skill checks, and saves. For Tech Resources, the modifier affects all knowledge-based skill checks, including mundane and magical crafting. For Security Resources, the modifier affects all combat attack rolls.

In terms of the goal for this strategic resource management component, the players need to develop their tribe enough for them to change from a nomadic tribe to a permanent settled community in Khamaz. To do this, they must reach Tier V in all three Resource sub-categories. After that, they can permanently settle their tribe, and the campaign shifts into a more traditional D&D campaign (either with the same tribal PCs or new characters from a different area). Conversely, if the tribe’s Resources all fall to zero in Tier I through disaster, disease, and/or bad decisions, the tribe collapses and disbands, with the remaining PCs becoming a troupe of adventurers.


I came up with this mechanism after reading a pretty cool, post-apocalyptic RPG called Other Dust by Kevin Crawford, or more specifically the rules for developing and managing Groups and Enclaves in that game. As should be obvious to anyone familiar with Other Dust, I loosely adapted elements of those rules for First Cities. Prior to stumbling across Other Dust, I was having a hell of a time trying to figure out how I was going to integrate resource management into the campaign. Other Dust helped me break through the conceptual logjam and slot everything into place.

Thus far, after nine game sessions of the campaign, this mechanism for tracking the tribe’s macro progress has worked pretty well. Those players who are into Civilization-type games have taken to it, while those not so interested seem content to let the others take the lead in managing it.


Featured Image: “The Grand Duchy of Karameikos and Surroundings, 1000 AC” Hex Map by Thorfinn Tait, used under Creative Commons license.