Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I don't need a thousand points of light. Just one good one will do.

Game authors write a lot of material for our hobby.  Some hobbyists can find a way to expound on just about every aspect of games and gaming.  My favorite example of this is Warriors, a sourcebook by Skirmisher Publishing that takes a single paragraph about NPC fighters in the Third Edition Dungeons and Dragons Game Master's Guide and expands it into a 130 page supplement.  As I get older, though, I find that I just do not have as much time to wade through as much material as I would like.  I am always on the look out for a supplement that manages to either be brief but thorough or packed with really useful information (regardless of length).  When I find one that is brief, thorough, AND packed with gaming goodness, that is the worthy of note.

One of my favorite products that manages to do all of those things is Points of Light by Goodman Games.  Points packs four fairly detailed campaign settings, each loosely linked to the others, into 48 tight pages.  The settings are nominally designed for use with Dungeons and Dragons, but the material is largely devoid of stats, so each page consists primarily of setting material.  A full page map is included for each of the four settings. The rest of each entry is a series of locations with short descriptions of what makes the location interesting.

It is these descriptions that make Points of Light stand out.  The author manages to insert something interesting into almost all of them.  That alone would make this a pretty good product.  How the individual entries interact in intriguing ways makes this supplement truly stand out.  Each setting also strikes a nice balance of information.  There is ample empty space on each map for the GM to add things to make the setting his own.  Also, there is plenty of detail, but not so much that the PCs will have trouble finding a way to become important to the setting. Three of the four offerings are settings that I think I would personally enjoy turning into settings for my players. The fourth is less to my personal taste, but still manages to provide some tidbits that I could find uses for elsewhere.

All four scenarios are linked by a central event:  the collapse of the Bright Empire after a long glorious reign.  The setting is created to intentionally resemble various areas of Europe after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.  The Empire was able to withstand various external forces, but was finally brought low by a civil war between the followers of two gods: Delaquain, the Goddess of Honor and Justice, and Sarrath, the God of War and Order.  While these forces were combating each other, the various enemies on the borders took the opportunity to strike and bring a permanent end to the Bright Empire.

The campaign setting I find the most intriguing is entitled "The Wildlands."  Set in a outer province of the former Empire, the area has been overrun repeatedly, first by non-human invaders and later by equally vicious human barbarian tribes.  A decade has passed since the collapse.  Only a single walled town remains as evidence that the Bright Empire ever held sway in the province of Tharvingia.  This town is currently ruled by a priest of Sarrath, who recaptured the area a mere two years ago from the barbarian horde.  The Priest and his allies struggle to restore the city despite the dual pressures of hostile forces without and desperate townsfolk within.  In such a hostile environment, even the actions of a few good heroes can make a difference.

In this campaign, the players would all be denizens of the walled town of Yellzurthi.  The town is in desperate condition and can look only inward for help.  The PCs will, whether under their own initiative or at the behest of the town elders, make forays into the countryside to repel the (in this case literally) barbarians at the gates.  Missions to surrounding ruined towns to retrieve needed materials, foraging expeditions, and perhaps even the occasional retaliatory raid against the enemy would round out the PCs mandate.  Many fantasy games are travelogues, with the players roaming the land and having adventures in a series of interesting locales.  This game is exactly the opposite of that.  The characters have nowhere to go that is not in the same dire straits as their home.  It falls to them to first survive and then, if they are fortunate, push back against the dark.

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