D&D 4E: Points of Light

There's an article up on the new Dragon/Gleemax thing (you need to register and log in to see it, sorry) about one of the concepts that the designers are using for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Here's a quote, which summarises it:

one of the new key conceits about the D&D world is simply this: Civilized folk live in small, isolated points of light scattered across a big, dark, dangerous world. Most of the world is monster-haunted wilderness. The centers of civilization are few and far between, and the world isn’t carved up between nation-states that jealously enforce their borders.

And that's rather a pity, in my mind. Not because they're going in with some baseline assumptions about the genre, because they have to do that, but that assumption in particular. A great deal of the best new fantasy out there, both in games and novels, deals with more civilised worlds. Certainly, there are a lot of very fine fantasies, from Lord of the Rings on down to China Miéville's The Scar and Iron Council that assume city-states in wilderness.

But I've had a lot of fun in my own games with international relations between bordering countries, and many, say, of Guy Gavriel Kay's, or Lois McMaster Bujold's fantasy novels centre around such things. Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword both take place in civilisation with borders and structures.

Obviously, people can use the D&D ruleset however they choose - but leaving a certain freedom of choice, within the fantasy genre, was a strong tenet of 3rd Edition. On that basis, it seems a pity to "assume out" such things.

Posted by Drew Shiel at September 26, 2007 4:41 PM

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It seems like D&D is moving to the steppes of central Asia and Russia... most of that land is to this day empty, with only a few cities (Samarkand, Tashkent, Ashgabat, Ulan Bataar, etc) to act as centers of civilization.

Posted by: Noname at June 1, 2008 6:20 AM