Welcome to He Who Saw The Deep, my blog dedicated to archiving various writings about my current homebrew 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Conceived in the fall of 2012 and launched as a regular campaign in January of this year, the First Cities campaign, as I call it, takes its inspiration and cultural motifs from the societies and cultures of the Ancient Near East, a period of human experience that birthed the world’s first urban civilizations in the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys in what is today Iraq.
Designed as an exploration-based hexcrawl, First Cities is a campaign emphasizing the discovery of vast riches, ancient knowledges, and exotic peoples; of mighty cities built to serve the needs and desires of the gods; and of the dangerous monsters and strange beastmen that roam the wild frontiers of the civilized world. He Who Saw The Deep will serve as the main repository for this campaign, serving as both an all-purpose player campaign aid and an open-access, general resource for the public at large.
So what exactly are my reasons for doing this? Well, I have a couple of motivations. In the first place, I’ve taken my inspiration from the writing my friend Rich Forest is doing on his blog, Superhero Necromancer, regarding his current homebrew campaign setting, the Rainy City, which I am playing in (we trade off DMing duties every few weeks). A mixture of campaign documents, play reports, and player-generated content, Rich is offering up on the internet an intricate look at the campaign setting he has been building in his head for a few years now (you can find all of Rich’s posts on the recent Rainy City campaign collected here). As much fun as it is to play in the campaign, it’s just as awesome to see other peoples’ reactions to the campaign materials too. I hope to capture that same sort of dynamic on this blog with First Cities.
However, I also have a semi-academic goal in mind for this blog. In past writing I’ve done for Play the Past, an academic group blog about gaming and cultural heritage, I’ve focused my attention largely on tabletop role-playing games (when most of the blog’s excellent output skews toward digital gaming) and the intersection between good/fun game design and historical fidelity in the construction of these tabletop RPGs (you can peruse some of my postings here). In choosing to harness First Cities to the historicity of the Ancient Near East, I’ve found that I’m actually engaging in the very process I’ve been studying and writing about lately. As such, I hope to use this blog to pull back the curtain a bit on my campaign design process — to show my work, as my math teachers used to say, while I am appropriating and adapting the history of the Ancient Near East for use in my D&D game. I am by no means a professional game designer or anything, but as an academically trained historian, analyzing systems of thought, cultural heritage, and historical narratives is my bread and butter.
My plan is to mix in First Cities campaign materials (including crafted encounters and locations) and play reports with design-focused pieces that explore how I built this campaign — my sources, my methods, my design decisions, etc. As it moves forward, I may also include pieces on broader issues related to gaming and the Ancient Near East — reviews, news, inspirations, etc. I might even try cross-posting a few items with Play the Past, we’ll see I guess…
I’m not entirely sure what sort of posting schedule I’ll be able to adhere to, but tentatively I can see material dropping at least once a week, at least in the early going. I’ve generated a lot of written material for this campaign, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to adapt that for publication on the blog.
I’m looking forward to you all joining me as we explore the foundations of the ancient and venerable land of Khamaz, home to the First Cities of Humanity!