If you're reading this at the time of publication, may I apologise for the dreadful state of this page's layout. I was planning something rather ambitious, but I only went halfway with it. Maybe I'll clean it up some day.
I've thought of three tools that I need to develop to give focus to my Swamp campaign:
1. A clear system for hunting. At the moment, I'm leaning towards a Wilderness Lore check to find food of some sort, then have a mini-encounter for actually getting it. In some cases this will be simple.
"You find some fruit trees. What do you do?"
"I pick it."
"Roll a reflex save..."
Other times, the food might bite back. I want to put a lot of emphasis in this campaign on survival, so the roll=rations equation ain't working for me. Plus, once players are used to roleplaying their food-gathering, I can use it as a springboard for whole adventures. Perhaps one day they hunt a whale or something...
2. The success of the wilderness lore check will determine how much food they find, I suppose. Assuming there are no problems, I'll give them that many rations. But rations are going to be like currency so, following on from this article about money, I'm going to have a physical representation of rations. I think I'll take the obvious solution: a candy dish. "Okay guys, three days pass. Everyone have three smarties!" There are two obvious pitfalls: not enough candy, so the players absentmindedly scarf a week's work of rations in one handful, or (quite possibly) too much candy, if the players get sick of it. But who the fuck gets sick of candy? I might have a separate "Out of Character" dish to combat the former, or just eat them myself to combat the latter, or if they share food with NPCs, which brings me to my next point.
3. The tough part I'm having is how to simulate a gift economy, so that the players have concrete goals and receive concrete benefits. I think the way I'm going to do this is by having them make diplomacy rolls when they give gifts. If you have the 3.0 DMG handy (you don't?!!) the rules are on page 149. Essentially, NPC attitudes are rated on a scale from Hostile to Helpful, and depending on where they lie at the moment there are different difficulty classes to improve their attitudes to a given level (and low scores resulting in a worsening of attitudes, as you might imagine). I'll give the players bonuses to the roll for presenting a particularly extravagant gift or a particularly glowing speech about the friendship between their communities. If they get another clan to "indifferent," it will respond with the occasional mundane gift. If they get it to "friendly," it will frequently offer minor assistance. If they get it to "helpful," then it will give them some outrageous gift. Performing quests for another clan always counts as a great gift, and will shove them up the scale dramatically. A group that is "helpful" to the party will consider its debt repaid after one great gift, and return to "friendly" dealings. This means I need some treasure tables for what clans will regular give, and a list of services a player can regularly expect from friendly clans. Of course, certain things will tend to hurt a character's relationship with others: too frequent requests for assistance, failing to pay back a gift, or running counter to their interests in one way or other.
Anyway, this should provide me with a nice, characterful setting, as well as plenty of plot hooks. Always a bonus.