Let’s take a look at Jalizar as an option for a high fantasy campaign, which is where I was headed before 13th Age caught my eye; it’s still something I’d like to do eventually.
We’re aiming for “The Lord of the Rings on acid”, rather than “the Savage Sword of Conan”, which will mean a certain amount of surgery; but as long as we limit the campaign to the city and its environs, only a few players will notice, and frankly most of those won’t care. Purists should look away now, though. Jalizar is nearly five years old, so I will allow myself some spoilers as well.
Let’s begin with the demihuman races. There is something that looks like a forest south of Jalizar, which could house elves; Ironguard Pass, to the south-west, sounds like it ought to have dwarves in it; we can swap the Valk for orcs easily enough, since Tolkien largely patterned them on huns and mongols, which is what the Valk are based on; and halflings are traditionally found around humans. Drow are very close to Tricarnians in spirit, so we can have them as well if we like.
To minimise the risk of confusion among inexperienced players, we’ll limit ourselves to the core SW rulebook, which means none of the edges or arcane backgrounds in B&B for PCs; I know that works because it’s how I run Shadows of Keron, although it’s a pity.
High fantasy implies an adventure path or plot point campaign of some sort, which we can build on a combination of two of Jalizar’s suggested campaign themes; The Rise to Power and Lone Warriors Against Evil, with the latter dominant. That keeps the action focussed in the city, which will help avoid awkward questions about demihumans. A good skeleton for the plot point campaign is given by the GM Tips sidebar on p. 123, Degrees of Knowledge About the Jamhans – these guys are THE big secret of Jalizar. This approach also means there is a dungeon to explore, in the form of the Sewers.
The players are likely to create a group of murderhobos, so where better to put them than in and around the Thieves’ Guild? Thieves, corrupt Copper Helms, sorcerors who need hard-to-come-by ingredients or provide magical support on guild missions, undercover Iron Priests, smugglers. To borrow from Greywulf, this is Grand Theft Donkey: Jalizar.
That in turn tells us which organisations will be involved: The Thieves’ Guild and the Jan Tong will be the primary factions, with the Merchant Houses essentially existing as targets for the Guild and the Copper Helms being a sort of terrain hazard.
There are a number of existing adventures I can weave into the campaign: The Weeping Mother; Grains of Death; from Places of the Dominions, The Caravan of Two Lanterns and The Windowless Tower; and with a little thought, The Cliff Queen’s Court. There are also intriguing little hints about potential scenarios scattered through the book – for example, how and why did that nobleman die so horribly in the privy? So long as I make sure each story has some information, NPC or creature connected to the main plotline, all will be well.
The theme is clear; as the SW Bedlam setting puts it, the game is about bad people doing good things for questionable reasons.