My points of light…

Who knew that former US President George H. W. Bush was a Game Master, and a groundbreaking pioneer at that! He spoke about points of light campaigns in 1989 almost twenty years before D&D 4th edition. What’s that? He didn’t mean that? Let me look at that link… Well I feel like a fool!

In all sincerity I knew what the quote was about, I remember hearing it back then. The link to Wikipedia above explains that the origin of the “thousand points of light” is from the Magician’s Apprentice by CS Lewis. But the D&D points of light campaign is another matter entirely. When I first read of the concept in the run up to D&D 4th edition I was intrigued. But I have a long running campaign and the idea of the points of light style game really did not mesh well with the world I had created over 20+ years.

Every edition change entails some mechanical changes in ongoing campaigns. If you consider my world was first played in D&D Basic, and then went on to be adapted in AD&D 1st and 2nd editions, D&D 3rd edition and 3.5, you’ll see I’m no stranger to change. However I don’t like hand waving stuff that is an integral part of the campaigns consistency. If dwarves could not be magic users before, why can they be now?

So I like to create in game rationales for this type of changes. The change from AD&D 2nd edition to D&D 3rd edition was easy since the games where set in the same world but in distant continents. Still I created in game explanation for many changes. When D&D 4th was coming out I was fully on board and while I was unsure how the whole points of light concept would carry though I was ready for other changes, tieflings were already in my campaign since 2nd edition, they looked different but that was not a problem per se. Dragonborn where another matter, so even before I made the rule change I began to work a rationale of where the race would come from. I was set! All that was left was for D&D 4th ed to come out.

And then I read the books. Don’t get me wrong I liked D&D 4th edition, I still do. It’s a game with a clear purpose, delivers well what it’s intended to be, and it certainly dared to sacrifice some sacred cows I thought they’d never touch. But I could tell this was a different game, that its feel and game play would be different from what I was used to, so I decided NOT to jump in into my campaign right away and instead do a trial run using the points of light idea.

That turned into our 7+ month D&D 4th edition campaign. We played weekly during that time and went all through the heroic tier and into paragon. Those where some turbulent months, with rebellions at the table over the system, some players disliking it so much they quit the game they have been playing with me for decades, exploring the tools the system provided, and telling a pretty entertaining story along the way. Ultimately we decided the system was not for us and moved on to Pathfinder.

With D&D Next coming up I’m suddenly thinking about adaptations all over again, I am not sure I will switch my campaign if I play it. IF I get to participate in the playtest (WotC pick me, pick me! I only bash you semi-regularly!) I will most thatn likely create a mini-campaign just like I did for 4th edition.

This all gets back to MY points of light eventually… My ruminations on the matter made me dig out the little document I created as an introduction to the campaign when we started playing D&D 4th edition. Coming from a game where I handed out a LOT of long documents and complex handouts I tried to keep it short and simple, asked each player for a two sentence description of their character and to bring an image to the game. I then handed each of them a piece of paper with a secret their character knew. Nice and simple…

Here is the text of the handout I gave to the players that fateful night in 2008. I’m not reproducing it exactly as I gave it to them since back the I used some art I found out there in the Internet and I have NO idea who the artists are. But there is a small old-school map I made for the game. Hope you enjoy it and find it useful, or at least fun. Let me know what you think…

The Town of New Crosspointe

The town of New Crosspointe was founded upon the ruins of the old town of Cross Point on the 84th year of the rule of the Osterios Family, settled by missionaries from the Temple of Dawn on a crusade to retake the northern half of the valley from the goblin and orc tribes that controlled it since the Autumn of No Crops. The walled town sits north of the Aumvell Forest; bordered on the north-west by the Istir River, over sixty miles north of the ruined Wall of Forts that once demarcated the northern border of the Duke’s Holdings.

Built upon the ruins of the old settlement, it receives its name from the large bronze plaque set by the cross roads near the old market square, marking the place where two ancient roads of empires long past meet. The remains of these roads still form part of market road and hunter’s way the two main streets in town. The plaque itself is round and some 15 hands across. Carved upon its old faded surface is what seems to be an astrolabe and runes of unknown origin or meaning. Some four paces from the plaque there is a pedestal, overgrown with ivy, weatherworn and cracked, traces of a statue remain, a leg and pieces of a foot, and a lonely single inscription in Draconic. Those that read the language say it simply says “Cross Point”.

New Crosspointe has thrived and over the last 28 years it has grown as many pious pilgrims, those who seek their fortune, and those who want to leave their past behind, move to the frontier of the civilization in the valley. Brisk trade with the elven hunters from the Aumvell and solitary trappers further north has benefited the town. Most goods are traded with the various Halfling families who dare the dangers of the lower Istir River and the occasional merchant caravan from south of the valley.

The recent establishing of the Dougren Forge and Ironworks in town, by descendants of one of the clans that ruled over Griffon’s Cliff before the goblins took control of the fortress city, has been a boon for New Crosspointe. Loggers have recently been attacked and some have disappeared, causing great concern. The lord mayor has sent emissaries escorted by his men and some elven scouts into the deep Aumvell to negotiate with the eladrin of the Fey Pool and has assured the Town Council no further incidents shall be tolerated.

The northwestern part of town sits upon a small cliff overlooking the Istir River and flanked by two ancient towers dating from the original settlement of Cross Point. Upon the cliff as well stands the Temple of the Dawn rebuilt to its original glory. The town slowly slopes down to the south east towards the more populated districts and the Temple of Dusk where the original town cemetery still stands.

The town’s defenses are an amalgam of old and new stone walls connected by wooden walls covering the areas were the old walls crumbled, or where new construction has yet to begin. The southeast wall is itself composed of smaller wooden portions connected with wooden watchtowers, as the broken terrain in this area has made the construction of more permanent battlements difficult. The lord mayor keeps his dwelling, as well as the barracks for most of his men in a fort with its own wooden walls built upon the face of the southwestern wall.

Environs of New Crosspointe

A small branch of the Istir veers off south towards the cliffs of the town and forms a small bog there. Most halfling families traveling the river berth here when trading in town. Beyond the Istir River to the north various farms dot the landscape slowly giving way to the wild. There are some old manors from the time of the original settlement and further upriver a large riverside tower with diverse buildings around it in various stages of decay. According to legend and rumor the tower has been the seat to local lords, home to dark cults and hideaway to bandits at various stages in its history.

To the south, beyond the Hunter’s Gate, hunter’s road becomes the Duke’s Way, bordering the Aumvell Forest and descending into the south of the valley. The road is dangerous and fraught with peril. Many bandits and brigands plague this area. West are the wilds were goblins and other dangers still abound while east the wild gives way to the Ice Peak Mountains that surround the valley and the other myriad dangers that lurk there.

People of New Crosspointe

The population of New Crosspointe is composed mostly of humans; dwarves and halflings are present in considerable numbers, many living permanently in town. Elves from the Aumvell Forest trade often in town and some have settle for some years. While they seldom stay for long, a few of their offspring, half elves, can still be found in town. Two families of tieflings, related by blood to the Airenai, one of the five remaining bloodlines of the Seven Lords who support the Duke, live in town. One family is dedicated to the mystic arts, masters of Cilder Tower, renowned arcanists and seers. The other family is heavily involved in commerce and trade.

No dragonborn lives in town, one renowned member of the Duke’s Cresthelm Guard retired some years ago to a cabin half a day northeast of town. He frequently travels to town to trade on market day. While he always comes alone, rumors abound of others of his kind visiting, or training with this old warrior. Eladrin are seldom seen in town but loggers in the Aumvell Forest have seen them and on some full moons, when it is said that the Fey Pool can be found by all who seek it, some eladrin wanderer have left the Feywild and come to town.

Faith and the Pious

While all benevolent faiths are worshipped in New Crosspointe, only two large temples are present in town. The Temple of Dawn, whose missionaries resettled the town, is located north in the small cliffs. There the faithful of Pelor, Bahamut and Moradin gather to honor their deities. The Temple of Dusk is an older temple, still not completely restored to its former glory, which stands in the same grounds as the old town’s cemetery. Originally dedicated to the Raven Queen, it now has altars to Ioun and Erathis as well. It is not as well manned or attended as the Temple of Dawn, a fact that has not escaped the Lord Mayor who worships here.

A stone shrine, much more ancient than old Cross Point, is southeast of town, beyond the walls and overlooked by Cilder Tower. The shrine is dedicated to Avandara, Corellon and Sehanine, and many who travel into the forest stop here for a prayer. The dragonborn living near town is said to be a devout follower of Kord and willing to share his knowledge with the pious and brave.

The Tenedal Valley

The Tenedal Valley, usually simply called the valley by its inhabitants, has been the ancestral holding of the Osterios family for over two hundred years. Located in the northern regions of the Norath Empire in what used to be considered the frontier. At one time or another, the region was claimed by the empire of Bael Turath, the dragonborn of Arkhosia, and other older empires. The valley is surrounded by the Ice Peak Mountains, with only two viable accesses, Ghost Wail pass to the west and the Raven Hills to the south. While there are other routes these are small, inaccessible, or both. There are tales of tunnels running from Griffon’s Cliff beyond the Ice Peak Mountains, but if they exist, they are in control of the goblins who rule the former dwarven stronghold.

The valley was once covered in wild forests but was slowly cleared by logging and farming in the southern half. The north was less populated and remained inaccessible for many years until the headway made by the establishment of New Crosspointe and others that have followed. In the north reaches of the Ice Peak Mountains an active volcano bellows dark foreboding smoke and has in recent memory trembled twice, the tremors felt as far south as New Crosspointe.

The Sual’Li who live in the desert south of the valley have reestablished trade with the Duke after his father’s actions almost cost the valley their sole remaining ally beyond the mountains. To the west of the valley by the Boiling Lake there are still ruins of a dark ancient empire whose name no one seems willing to acknowledge, except to speak of its follies and the dangers that lurk in the ruins they left behind. Beyond that little is known, some merchants arrive to the Duke’s seat with tales both grandiose and often contradictory, and if rumor is to be believed, as dangerous as the valley may be, beyond the mountains things seem to be much worse.