log in or register to remove this ad

 

The impossibility of Point of Light settings

pemerton

Legend
I think spending time on the realism of social processes in FRPG settings is not much more profitable than worrying about the physics of dragon flight and giant spider respiration.

JRRT did not create realistic economies for his world; he relied on clear and evocative tropes. I think this is the way to approach FRPG settings.
And yet, weren't you praising just that kind of digging on race issues?
My comments in the "evil races" and allied threads are about the actual meaning and significance of pulp and fantasy tropes.

Given that very few people understand the social processes that govern the actual world - not even the economists and policy designers who devote their lives and vast resources to doing to - the idea that someone writing as a hobby is going to do so is fanciful.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Composer99

Explorer
Modern Forgotten Realms definitely isn't points of light, certainly not as presented in the published adventures. (Maybe Chult is.) I don't own SCAG so couldn't say how it presents the region.

Say rather that publications dealing with the Realms focus more on adventure hooks and events than the day to day of the vast village and farmland regions surrounding and sustaining, say, the big cities of the Sword Coast.
 

Undrave

Hero
Exactly, the Roman Empire took centuries to collapse & Byzantium etc. arguably took up the torch... Whilst even in such benighted places as Gaul or Brittan life went on as "normal" in places whilst in other areas the lands were devastated. Just replace Goth, Angle, Jute or Dane with Orc & Goblin et voilà you have your "points of light" campaign...
Pretty much, the 4e setting is set after the great human Empire of Nerath fell. I think it had something to do with the Gnolls?

So there is roads left over everywhere (the same way you can still find remnants of Roman roads today. Ruins all over the place, society is slowly building back up their meager trade networks, but treasure hunter that plunder dungeons for relics of the past and brave caravan guards are still in high demand!
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Another big deal I wanted to get into, but never got far enough was reveal that vegetation and crops were being aided by access to the Feywild so if that tie was cut all the vegetation would start to die as nature on that world was dependent on that access.

Has anyone tried that in your games reveal the Feywild is extremely important for life on that world?
Life comes from the Feywild, death comes from the Shadowfell. Cut off the Feywild and all the plants and animals and people die. Cut off the Shadowfell and nothing dies ever again. Hmm...like a reverse Thanos. A villain out to end death.
 

hopeless

Adventurer
Life comes from the Feywild, death comes from the Shadowfell. Cut off the Feywild and all the plants and animals and people die. Cut off the Shadowfell and nothing dies ever again. Hmm...like a reverse Thanos. A villain out to end death.
Cut off the feywild means nature suffers, cut off the shadowfell might mean nature takes over completely or the dead rise with no means to pass on peacefully...
 

Points of Light as a setting idea always crops up from time to time and D&D 4E heavily advertised with it. But what always bugged me with that is how it ignores how much interconnected infrastructure (to avoid the term civilization) is required to achieve something like the default technological level in D&D.
But part of the point of D&D settings, right from the earliest days, is that the setting doesn't support its own technological level. It once did - but from the earliest days if you wanted magic spells or magic items the best place to find them wasn't merchants or universities but in dungeons.

There are, in my experience, two basic Points of Light approaches. In 4e (which I believe was the trope namer) the Nerathi Empire fell only a couple of hundred years ago. The Keep on the Borderlands is a different approach to a Point of Light - and the Keep can't support itself. Few keeps can; the keep's job is to keep the interior safe so the farmland is protected and it gets outside support from the places it's protecting.
Farmland
Medieval farming is inefficient, especially when you base it on European crops and thus do not have access to rice or potatoes.
But we aren't talking pure medieval farming methods in a D&D setting. First there's magic; plant growth literally doubles yields, all for eight hours of a spellcaster's time per year - and if most of the food would normally be eaten by the farmer and family that's a massive improvement in productivity. Second there's left over infrastructure from before the fall; just because no one's making aqueducts doesn't mean they no longer exist. Elves probably practice wild farming. And there's evidence that Native American farming techniques were significantly more effective than European ones. For that matter one of the causes of Japanese internment in WWII was apparently a land grab because Japanese immigrants were massively out-farming Europeans. I wouldn't consider it surprising in a fantasy setting if humans produced massively high yields by real world European standards - and were considered poor farmers.
Animals
Animals are also needed to support a D&D level of technology. Not only as beast of burden to even allow all the products to be transported to the city, but also to supplement the food sources and, important for adventurers, as a source of leather and also other products like glue. And those animals also need land to graze on or even crop to be fed in the case of larger warhorses.
Here I suspect that there's less of a problem in a D&D world than you might think; there are lots of fairly fast breeding sources of leather that you don't need to feed because they come to you. Such as worgs.
Wood
Nearly all energy demands are met by wood and especially for smelting this demand is huge.
And here again we're looking at Points of Light. The best weapons and armour in an orthodox D&D Points of Light setting comes from dungeons. Good stuff can come from battlefields or armouries. The making of the equipment for legions was done centuries ago - and at least some of it is still fine. Also do you really need anything like so much wood when you have magic to heat your forges?
Metals
The other required resource for iron smelting is of course iron ore. And you also need a lot of it as during smelting there is a big loss of mass. Luckily iron ore is rather widely available. Still, we are talking about a point of light.
Again not so much an issue. If you're running a post-fall setting you have plenty of iron from the old empire. If it's a keep on the borderlands that happens back home.
Stone
Want a stone wall? Or paved streets? Then you require a source of stone and a quarry there.
No you don't need a quarry for a stone wall; you just need rocky outcroppings. A lot of dry stone walling for stone walls between fields were constructed out of "fieldstone" - or taking the stones out of the field (making it a better field) and using them to create the walls. As for paved streets, the fallen empire did a lot of that and you don't need so much to maintain the paving.

Or the Wall of Stone spell if we're using D&D tech
The point is, medieval technology, and with it the technology in D&D, is already so complex that a point of light settlement can't support it, even if that point is the size of a kingdom.
And part of the premise of the Points of Light setting is that the infrastructure used to be there - but this is one of the many threats to the local region.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
The Colosseum in Rome today looks half-built. This is because Dark Age and Carolingian generations were taking the really nice rock (marble &c) off the outside and putting it on their homes. Leaving behind the concrete and junk-rock "skeleton".

Somebody in the game world did same and opened up a pit or old stair into the basement. Any dungeon-delver wanna take a look around?
 

Ixal

Adventurer
But part of the point of D&D settings, right from the earliest days, is that the setting doesn't support its own technological level. It once did - but from the earliest days if you wanted magic spells or magic items the best place to find them wasn't merchants or universities but in dungeons.

There are, in my experience, two basic Points of Light approaches. In 4e (which I believe was the trope namer) the Nerathi Empire fell only a couple of hundred years ago. The Keep on the Borderlands is a different approach to a Point of Light - and the Keep can't support itself. Few keeps can; the keep's job is to keep the interior safe so the farmland is protected and it gets outside support from the places it's protecting.

But we aren't talking pure medieval farming methods in a D&D setting. First there's magic; plant growth literally doubles yields, all for eight hours of a spellcaster's time per year - and if most of the food would normally be eaten by the farmer and family that's a massive improvement in productivity. Second there's left over infrastructure from before the fall; just because no one's making aqueducts doesn't mean they no longer exist. Elves probably practice wild farming. And there's evidence that Native American farming techniques were significantly more effective than European ones. For that matter one of the causes of Japanese internment in WWII was apparently a land grab because Japanese immigrants were massively out-farming Europeans. I wouldn't consider it surprising in a fantasy setting if humans produced massively high yields by real world European standards - and were considered poor farmers.

Here I suspect that there's less of a problem in a D&D world than you might think; there are lots of fairly fast breeding sources of leather that you don't need to feed because they come to you. Such as worgs.

And here again we're looking at Points of Light. The best weapons and armour in an orthodox D&D Points of Light setting comes from dungeons. Good stuff can come from battlefields or armouries. The making of the equipment for legions was done centuries ago - and at least some of it is still fine. Also do you really need anything like so much wood when you have magic to heat your forges?

Again not so much an issue. If you're running a post-fall setting you have plenty of iron from the old empire. If it's a keep on the borderlands that happens back home.

No you don't need a quarry for a stone wall; you just need rocky outcroppings. A lot of dry stone walling for stone walls between fields were constructed out of "fieldstone" - or taking the stones out of the field (making it a better field) and using them to create the walls. As for paved streets, the fallen empire did a lot of that and you don't need so much to maintain the paving.

Or the Wall of Stone spell if we're using D&D tech

And part of the premise of the Points of Light setting is that the infrastructure used to be there - but this is one of the many threats to the local region.
A lot of "just use magic" solutions, but you forget that magic also requires resources. Not only require a higher institute of learning, something only wealthy societies can usually afford, but also uncommon things like ink, paper or parchment and spell components or crystals.
And you need a lot of spellcasters. Plant grow can double the yield, but only on a small field per day. To really make an impact you still need a lot of fields and enough spellcaster to cast this spell throughout the growing season every day.
Same with magically heating forges and smelters. And don't forget that this requires careful temperature control over a longer period of time, something most fire spells usually don't do.

Also, don't forget that if you do use the "recently fallen empire" background, this fallen empire would have already relied on magical support and thus would have had less conventional farms etc. to begin with, meaning you still run into a deficit, especially as people with higher education (spellcaster) are among the first things to vanish when an empire falls as compared to farmers.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The OP seems to think a "Point of Light" is little more than a single city.

I beg to differ. A "Point of Light" could be a civilized region the size of France; if the only other such regions on an Earth-like world are to be found in (what is now) Norway, Florida, Argentina, Tasmania, and Iran. Six points of light on an otherwise wild world. What more do you need? :)
 

A lot of "just use magic" solutions, but you forget that magic also requires resources. Not only require a higher institute of learning, something only wealthy societies can usually afford, but also uncommon things like ink, paper or parchment and spell components or crystals.
1: Those weren't "just use magic" solutions. They were "If we are talking about D&D tech then magic is a part of it".

And no, most types of magic don't require a higher institute of learning in D&D 5e. Or ink, paper, or parchment. Only one of the casting classes requires that. And there are a limited number of spells that require expensive material components, while the cheap ones in 5e can be replaced by a focus.
And you need a lot of spellcasters. Plant grow can double the yield, but only on a small field per day. To really make an impact you still need a lot of fields and enough spellcaster to cast this spell throughout the growing season every day.
Why on earth are you casting it over only one field rather than using the ritual version? The ritual takes 8 hours to cast and doubles the yield over a half mile radius - and given that there are 640 acres in a square mile you've just blessed about 500 acres of farmland to double its productivity for the year (or possibly the season). Hardly a small field per day or a spell you need to cast each day. Instead you need one single party per growing season per large farm where the druid is guest of honour. A single bard, druid, or ranger can support literally hundreds of people for a season with this spell.
Same with magically heating forges and smelters. And don't forget that this requires careful temperature control over a longer period of time, something most fire spells usually don't do.
Which is why they require higher tech - but aren't going away if well made.
Also, don't forget that if you do use the "recently fallen empire" background, this fallen empire would have already relied on magical support and thus would have had less conventional farms etc. to begin with, meaning you still run into a deficit, especially as people with higher education (spellcaster) are among the first things to vanish when an empire falls as compared to farmers.
We're not talking an ivory tower spell here. We're talking a druid, bard, or ranger spell. If anything the number of those would have gone up - and the demands on the land would have gone down when the cities broke.
 

A lot of "just use magic" solutions, but you forget that magic also requires resources. Not only require a higher institute of learning, something only wealthy societies can usually afford, but also uncommon things like ink, paper or parchment and spell components or crystals.
And you need a lot of spellcasters. Plant grow can double the yield, but only on a small field per day. To really make an impact you still need a lot of fields and enough spellcaster to cast this spell throughout the growing season every day.

Plant growth lasts for a year, and requires a 5th level bard, druid, Nature cleric, or (interestingly) Archfey warlock. Or a 9th level ranger or Ancients paladin, but those would be significantly more rare. Each casting essentially covers a one-mile diameter hex (or at least that's how they'd tessellate). 5th level casters don't exactly grow on trees, but neither are they the stuff of legend. You could theoretically cover two hexes in one day, but not for any extended period of time. You don't need to cast it daily on every field – the duration is a year. So assuming the caster is spending, say, 40 weeks per year and five days a week casting Plant Growth, that's 200 1-mile hexes, or 173 square miles. If you wanted to cover a larger area, you'd need one caster per approximately 14 mile hex.
 

Hussar

Legend
I just ran a 5e campaign set in the Chaos Scar - the 4e PoL module setting reboot of Keep on the Borderlands, the original PoL setting. :D

The well in the Keep has a decanter of Endless Water at the bottom. Water problems are solved. The keep regularly gets supplied from outside the scope of the setting by whoever it is that is running the Keep. Food and supplies problem solved (with a nice side possibility for lots of adventures).

But, outside of that, we shouldn't forget fantasy flora and fauna. Giant Bees, for example, could feet an entire village quite easily and it's not like farming bees is outside the scope of technology. Fire Beetles, as another example, are two foot long beetles. That's some good eating right there - lot's of cultures eat insects (and they don't taste half bad) and it's quite sustaining and easily sustainable. Plus, you now have a well lit town with garbage disposal. Win win. There are all sorts of things that would support a community just within the Monster Manual that don't require massive expenditures of resources to sustain people.

I mean, even something as simple as the Move Earth cantrip - shift a 5' cube of earth every 6 seconds? O.O That's HUGE. Earthworks become a snap. One guy can excavate and level the entire foundation for a town in a day. And, let's not forget, magic items, while expensive, last forever. Which means a single Lyre of Building builds towns in a snap.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top