20 Years of Eressea

When the world of Eressea was created in 1996, it was a playground for a small group of friends who were looking for an environment for their role-playing game characters to live in. As such, it is a world of magic and heroes, with the classic fantasy elements of elves, dwarves, orcs, swords and sorcery. As time went on, these original players invited their friends into the game, and eventually their friends, until everyone who was able to find the game on that new-fangled world wide web was allowed to join.

The game eventually grew to almost three thousand active players, at which point the management threw their hands up in the air and admitted defeat, closing new registrations in an attempt to let the player base decrease organically. With time, only a hard core of a few hundred players remained, the management found that they had the time and motivation to keep the game running indefinitely, and looked at ways to revitalize the game. Initially, we started running more games, some of which have since ended, and two that are still around, known as Eressea 3 and Deveron, each with slightly modified rules and a differeent mix of players. Finally, starting in 2015, the original game started accepting new players to re-populate the world in areas where old players had left, trying to make a life in the wastelands left behind by decades of warfare and economic exploitation, all the while rediscovering the ruins of lost civilizations.

How do you play this game?

Eressea is a turn-based email game, a descendant of play-by-mail games like correspondence chess. Players control a faction consisting of units, who can be anything from magicians, traders and archers to sailors, blacksmiths and swordsmen. Every week, each player receives an email with a turn report containing describing anything their units can observe about the world, and in response, players send out an email with their orders, that is instructions for what they want each unit to do for the next turn. For example, units can move around, learn new skills, produce resources and goods, or attack other units. Turns are run weekly on Saturday nights, and a program takes the order emails from each player to calculate a new game state. Finally, new reports are generated for each player and sent out, and thus the cycle begins again.

If you've ever played correspondence chess, a week per move may sound like an eternity, but consider that you never have more than 16 tokens on the board, and only need to give an order for a single one of them. In Eressea, factions can consist of hundreds of units, each of which needs to be given instructions on what to do. Additionally, players form alliances and diplomatic relations with their neighbors, which require additional emails to be sent and responded to, so there is plenty to do in the course of that week.

In other words, Eressea is a hobby that can take up a considerable amount of time, and by the time we reach turn number 1,000 in October of 2016, empires will have risen and fallen, and new empires built in the ruins of those first empires, and fallen again. In many ways, Eressea is not so much a game as it is a sandbox that generates stories, and a world with a rich history, in which each player plays a modest part. Most importantly, Eressea is not a game that can be "won" in any classic sense of that word.

Sound interesting? Do you want too...

  1. join a running game as a player?
  2. host your own game as a game master?
  3. modify the game as a developer?
Eressea is a game by Enno Rehling, Katja Zedel and Christian Schlittchen.