Have a free Points of Light campaign setting map

You’re welcome.

This is how a Points of Light setting should be. Ask a local villager where the nearest town is and they look fearfully at the Dark and Looming Hills to the North. “I heard there are folks lived that way one time, but I doubt they’re still alive.” Townsfolk will tell and re-tell tall tales about “The Southern Kings”, “The Swamp Lords” and “The Black Fae Portal” but if asked for directions they will look at their questioner as if they were being asked for the way to the moon.

Anything which cannot be reached before nightfall is myth.

Between those fabled Points of Light there is darkness and fear. Stepping out of the Point of Light your heroes call home means stepping into the very place they have learned their entire life is dangerous and most likely fatal. Entering the Dark is suicide in the eyes of the average Points of Light resident. They will shake their heads and cross themselves (or whatever followers of Pelor do – big round friendly sun circles, probably) as the Heroes leave the stockaded village, most likely never to be seen again.

The Points of Light campaign setting needs no map. Leaving the confines of home is a step into the Unknown, and the Unknown has no map because that’s what Unknown means.

Ah, you say, what about the GM? Shouldn’t he (or she) know what’s out there? After all, isn’t that the GM’s job – to know the unknown?

Yes, up to a point.

Ideally, the GM’s knowledge should extend at least as far as the next scenario, and at most as far as the current story arc. Anything else, even to the GM, is black. Full maps complete with preset locations, terrain details and more (such as the Nerath map for 4e) are a shackle which limit GM invention. Keeping things vague and unknown means the GM is free to add new feature and change the world according to the needs of the story. If I want a 200′ wall of bones surrounding a vast area, or to move Hammerfast, I can. The blackness in a true Points of Light setting is an unwritten part of the tale, waiting to be told.

Let’s imagine for a moment that the heroes are residents of Fallcrest. They know of the old King’s Road, but incursions of foul beasts, untamed nature and wild magic have rendered it impassable for generations. Somewhere to the West lies Winterhaven, but what few maps they have are so out of date as to be unusable. The problem is that their mentor in Fallcrest is dying of an unidentified ailment, and the only words be utters in his delirium is “Demons in Winterhaven! They are coming!”……

It is time for the heroes to venture out and spread the Light.

And make their own map.

 

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7 Responses

  1. Daring! As I’m finding that the hex maps I use for two of my campaigns (Wilderness of High Fantasy Sea of Five Wunds map and Wildlands in Points of Light) don’t inspire the true gonzo in me I’m starting to think that maybe my campaign would be better off without a “finished” map. I’ve been trying to fix this by simply adding a tin of random stuff to the map as the party travels through the land. Effectively the published map has a bit more detail than your map, but all of it makes about 10% of what the players encounter. That’s how much stuff got added later.

  2. Jason Dawson says:

    OK– I gotta admit I laughed out loud at the picture. And I happen to agree with your post– up to a point. I have been GMing long enough to know that for MY personal style, trying to run a game like that would drive me into analysis paralysis. My brain requires more stuff to riff off of than just those pieces. I can see how that could work for some– I am just not one of them.

  3. drow says:

    “This is how a Points of Light setting should be”… IN SPACE.

  4. In some ways, I think Skyrim handles the points of light idea really well, the whole idea of isolated farms and mines, surrounded by wilderness and bandit camps. And the majority of these are just out of eyeshot of each other and often a journey off the beaten track. What disappointed me about this is the lack of wilderness encounters with bandits and animals, sure, you get them, but they aren’t really lethal (unless you encounter a giant or mammoth)

  5. DM Glen says:

    Well, as much as I hate the term Point of Light (sounds too George Bush to me) you make a great point, one that seems obvious but that needs to be said. As a Basic D&D and 2E DM I learned long ago the value of not mapping a whole lot of area for the players. The wonder of discovery is something not only every player but every DM needs to cultivate. And it needs to be told periodically, not only for new folks coming into the game but for Old Farts like me who forget. Some anvils need to be dropped.

    -DM Glen

  6. Elton says:

    So, Greywulf, are you going to buy a copy of D&D 5e when it comes out next year? :)

  7. NoMovingParts says:

    Exactly! I had a campaign some years ago where no maps were available. The players were mostly old school (as far as Arduin), and, when we started I just told them, “The next town is 3 days north.”
    “What if we take horses?”
    “3 days.”
    “Walk?”
    “3 days.”
    “FLY?!?”
    “3 days. Guys – I don’t know where the town is until you get there. THEN I’ll put it on the map.”
    This satisfied all.

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