View Full Version : Points of Light, Inside-Out Campaign Design

2010-07-28, 11:49 PM
I have been curious about a points of light, type of setting, and was curious how the people who inhabit such a world would differ from those in a more outside-in setting.

Our current campaign is set in such an outside-in world. It is well-known that their are civilizations accross the seas, great port cities many days' travel away, and roads that connect some of the worlds' major settlements. Most people who can read have seen a map, and have pretty good reason to believe that they too could go see some of these far off places given the proper means.

But how would the outlook of these people change in a setting where I (the DM) was truly building the world from the inside out. Not just "revealing the map", but actually "creating the map" as the scope of the campaign expanded. How do you pull off npc's who not only have never been to that far-off metropolis, but have never even heard of it? How much of the outside world would the inhabitants of a hamlet be able to put down to a map? What about the inhabitants of a large city? As a points of light campaign, how many small hamlets would have knowledge of nearby settlements, and how many would be truly isolated?

What motivations do adventurers have in a world which is largely unknown to them? I would venture that their adventures would be driven more by personal ties than nebulous wealth?

Has anybody run a campaign like this? How did it work? What were the good points, and the pit-falls? Any tips?

2010-07-29, 01:14 AM
I imagine any inhabitants would be extremely insular, likely not knowing much of the world more than a mile from their village/town/whatever. If they even realize they're a part of a country (if such a thing could really exist with so little travel), it's probably in the barest sense possible.

I really can't imagine anything smaller than town-sized really surviving. Points of Light implies an all-pervading "sea of monsters" (so to speak). Since most of them are not only stronger than any one person but a fairly sizable number of people, I see people more than likely banding together into autonomous city-states. Any nations that exist would have to be more powerful than is probably normal, with regular patrols on the roads to keep them relatively safe for travelers. Outside of any such nation, I imagine travelers would be rare and met with suspicion and distrust, if not outright hostility. When most of the world wants to eat you and some of those things can change shape, it's hard to be accepting of any outsiders. (Of course, a lot of those creatures could likely level any amount of out of the way villages without feeling threatened at all.)

Just a few thoughts I had.

2010-07-29, 01:20 AM
Just take the basic medieval/renaissance era campaign back a few steps to an earlier age (dark age? iron age? not sure).

2010-07-29, 05:38 AM
I'm currently running an Iron Age, points of light, E6 campaign, and I think all three aspects work very well together.
Most people are 1st level commoners, so the sea of monsters is really mostly worgs, gnolls, ogres, ankhegs, and the like. All of these can kill one or even two or three commoners almost instantly. But a dozen 1st level warriors with bows and spears, with the possibly help of a 2nd level ranger could easily hunt down and kill two or three of these creatures. So most villages are located in the center of wide clearings or valleys, surrounded by the fields. At night everyone barrs the doors, and during day time it's quite easy to alert the militia when something is seen comming from the woods. When affordable, or really neccessary, the village can also be surrounded by a wooden palisade. I think such a village is reasonably safe, but you don't want to be outside at night or go into the forests alone.
However, when the often mentioned manticore comes to the area, it will completely terrorize the village. Cue: wandering adventurers. In my campaing, adventurers are a rather common and respected profession. They are not neccessarily completely trusted, but only their existance make this form of society even possible.

Regarding maps: I think it's not unlikely that wealthy adventurers get their hands on even quite detailed maps of the land. However, most of the names on it have never been heard before, and there are few people who can explain them what those places actually are.

2010-07-29, 06:03 AM
Some thoughts, in no particular order:

I think that in a points of light setting there would be very, very few maps - mapping requires people to go out into the wilderness, draw it all, then survive long enough to bring that back to civilisation. The only maps would be those provided by other adventurers or powerful 'bird's eye' scrying magic.

There wouldn't be much in the way of roads, either. People only build roads when there's a decent amount of travel between point A and point B. You'd have tracks and paths between places, but none that are longer than a day's travel - because otherwise you'd have to be outside at night, and that's pretty much asking to be carried off by the goblins. Adventurers would have to blaze their own trail between places, and maybe enterprising villagers would follow in their wake.

No roads means no trade, or very very little. Itinerant peddlars, mostly. They would carry news as well as goods. This means there are no inns. The very few travellers would sleep in someone's barn, or on the floor of the local tavern.

Small communities would have to exist in clusters or not at all. Even if they can survive the worgs and the goblins and the kobolds and etc. - which is plausible - they also have to survive inbreeding, which is a danger in any community of fewer than about 500 people. Arranged marriages would be common, because you're almost certainly related to everyone who lives within easy travelling distance.

Adventurers are like celebrities - they've been to places and seen and done things that are literally beyond the imagination of most villagers. When they rock into town people will throng to them for news of the outside world, for fantastic stories, and the chance to interact with true, honest-to-god strangers.

Although also note that this sort of pysical isolation brings social isolation - communities like this will develop their own unique customs and taboos, and may well turn on people who violate them with little or no warning.

2010-07-29, 06:18 AM
Remember that such societies were the norm for most of humanities history.
But I wouldn't underestimate the relations between communities. While the aborigines of Australia had maintained a really simple society until colonization by Europeans, they had very extensive networks of trade relations that spanned the entire continent. Many resources are found in only very limited areas, but reached many far away places through trade. And this is Australia, which is a sea of monsters in most regards. :smallbiggrin:

Paved highways like built by the romans would probably be exceptionally rare, but there would most certainly be lots of established routes taken by travelling traders and used to spread news. Take the caravans that traveled the Sahara and arabian desert for example. But it would be foolish to go alone and without protection. Unless you're experienced adventurers, you'd only travel in groups and with lots of guards.