Big Mac wrote: ↑
Mon Jan 28, 2019 8:39 am
- An area on the same world as Nentir Vale was designed during the 3rd Edition Era. (I hear it was originally supposed to be part of Forgotten Realms.) See the Red Hand of Doom in DMs Guild's Nentir Vale category. So Nentir Vale's roots are in the 3rd Edition Era.
Curiously enough, Nentir Vale was originally conceived to be part of the Forgotten Realms before it became its own thing, according to Chris Perkins
So, on topic. Adding to what Tim and DM Samuel have said (that I wholeheartedly support), these are my opinions. I’m going to apologize beforehand; this will be a large post.
What are the integral elements of a Nentir Vale campaign? Or, in other words, what makes the Nentir Vale’s World unique when compared with the other D&D worlds?
The first thing to take into a account is that the current year of a Nentir Vale campaign starts 100 years after the fall of Nerath, in a point of time between the last great war of the age, that destroyed an empire that controlled all of the known world, and the rise of the next world-spanning power, which might be centuries away. And that means that in some sense, the Nentir Vale’s World is a world in decline. I’m not going to say that is on the same level of “dark” as Dark Sun is, but is a dark world. And a DM who really wants to express the essence of the Nentir Vale in his or her campaign needs to emphasize on that.
In the Nentir Vale’s World there is no such thing as “The Kingdom”, unlike in the classical D&D worlds. There is no Waterdeep and its Lords’ Alliance, or any other forces with enough power to enforce their laws in the land and that would save the world when the next orc horde attacks or that will maintain in check The Evil Kingdom™, thus allowing for a life of peace and prosperity in the smaller settlements. And if some kind of evil befalls the world, then the people of the Nentir Vale are on their own and usually on the loser’s end. I guess, Raiders of Harkenwold is a good example of this. If not for the player’s characters, Harkenwold would have been unable to deal with the Iron Circle, and possibly the entire Nentir Vale would have been conquered rather easily.
And this means that the world of the Nentir Vale is a really dangerous place. Many small settlements and strongholds are founded, flourish for a time, and then fall into darkness. The wild lands are filled with abandoned towns and outposts. The common folk look upon the wild lands with dread, and few people are widely traveled. Yeah, sure, there is a small amount of trade and travel. A civilization would fall without it. But it is limited to a few plucky merchants and some ambitious, desperate individuals in search of easy riches. And these individuals are careful to stick to the better-known roads, because the lands between settlements are wide and empty. If you stray from those roads, you’ll quickly find yourself in monster-infested wilderness.
When traveling from one place to another, the DM should emphasize in how dangerous the journey is, how things can go from hard to deadly if the party took the wrong turn in a road or went out of the way for some reason, or even if they don’t. Anything could be waiting down that old road: the old watch tower can be the lair of a monster, that lonely village along the way is under the sway of a demonic cult, or the forest near it is full of ghosts who thirst for the blood of the living. In a world without an authority to enforce the law, there is also the possibility that roads are often closed by bandits or monsters. The simple mission of driving off whomever or whatever is preying on unfortunate travelers in the roads can be an adventure on its own.
Another implication of this is that, in a world with no overarching authority and little travel (which means news travel really slow), settlements afflicted by troubles can only hope for a band of heroes to luckily arrive and set things right or they are doomed. If there is a kingdom beyond the town’s walls, it’s still largely covered by unexplored wilds full of danger. The king’s soldiers might do a passable job of keeping the lands within a few miles of his castle free of monsters and bandits, but most of the realm’s outlying towns and villages are on their own.
So, in other words, the world of the Nentir Vale is a world of “points of light in the widespread darkness
And these points of light, these minor kingdoms and small towns, are the last vestiges of old, mighty Nerath. In these places, people still live as they did when Nerath was whole and strong. The roads that still wind through the wilderness are Nerath roads. The outposts that protect farms and towns are Nerath outposts. The difference is that the glory and grandeur are gone. This means that the DM must create a feeling of loss and nostalgia. A lot of NPCs (specially, those of the long living races, who may have experienced Nerath in her full glory) should be talking about how things used to be better and brighter in the good old days that will not return.
And even Nerath was built on the foundations of ancient civilizations long gone, such as legendary Arkhosia and Bael Turath, among others. Those ancient empires left tell-tale signs of their majesty: scattered bits of crumbling structures dot the world, hidden by the ever-encroaching wilderness, sheltering unnamed horrors. Half-collapsed complexes, buried cities, and mysterious temples are features that can be near to the common settlements. Or those settlements maybe where built among some of those ruins. I remember a wonderfull piece of art from Worlds & Monsters were there is a common village built in Arkhosian ruins.
In the unreclaimed ruins, lost knowledge lingers and ancient magic set in motion by forgotten hands still flows in them. Ordinary folk shun these locations, fearing what might lie within. For good reason.
Another thing to take into account, and one that I feel is really important and sets the Nentir Vale apart from the other D&D settings, is that there is no such thing as 5e’s “common and uncommon races”. Yeah, perhaps the dragonborn are less numerous in the Nentir Vale region, but go down south to the Dragondown Coast and you’ll find that they outnumber elves and dwarves there. So they are by no means “rare” or “exotic” unlike in the 5e paradigm, and common folk would react to one of them as they would to an elf or a halfling.
During the time of Nerath, people learned to accept and even become fond of those different from themselves (originally this was enforced by law, according to some sources). This enlightened ideal is still widely maintained in the former lands of the Empire, even in areas where members of one race outnumber others. This means that most settlements are multi-racial, with settlements inhabited by only members of just one race being a rare exception. And also means that the 5e paradigm of "people will fear the tiefling and not talk to her because she looks like a devil" is not true in a Nentir Vale campaign. Heck, in Fallcrest tieflings are trusted shopkeepers and land owners...