Adventuring in a world like the Nightlands should be suitably different from other campaigns. Notably, the party would like be seen as crazy to even think of walking out of the gates in such a small group. In normal settings, the wilderness is dangerous, sure, but common. Farmers live on the edge of civilization themselves. They aren't happy with it, but they are used to fighting wild animals and the occasional bandits. Adventurers are unusual for their desire to throw themselves into danger for the promise of some coins or for the good of their brothers, but not crazy.
The Nightlands aren't normal wilderness. They are cursed and evil. They change people over time. This is common knowledge, bloated and exaggerated through years of rumors and hearsay. Everyone has a friend's girlfriend's cousin's grandfather who once went with a military group into the Nightlands, only to come back crazy. Everyone knows that it's only safe inside the walls of Lumina. People who decide that they want to make a living by heading outside the gates to fight cursed monsters and demons are probably considered unstable by some and dangerously insane by most.
Herein actually lies a problem I've seen with this world so far. If the Nightlands are dangerous and basically impossible to penetrate for the normal person, how are any features of the Nightlands known well enough to even send the adventurers after? Typically in D&D, someone with money will ask the party to do something, with a promise of reward. It's a fairly basic quest structure, and money is commonly a decent motivator. Wouldn't it be considered an insult to even ask someone to go out there? It's akin to saying "Err, there's a quarter at the bottom of that meat grinder. I'll give you fifty bucks if you jump into it and get that quarter for me."
Then again, if the party is known as one of those crazy groups that is willing to risk all the dangers of the Nightlands for coin, it makes sense that they would get requests to explore/loot/retrieve things nearby the town. That's something to work out later.
Anyway, so adventuring in the Nightlands is different. One way I think I'll make it different from other worlds I've played in is that it's basically unexplored. It's a rare thing that concrete human knowledge lasts much more than a few hundred years. What we know about cultures more than three thousand years ago can basically be summed up in a small pamphlet. The Nightlands, according to the first post, have been this way for 'millenia'. This is effectively since time immemorial. What is known about the Nightlands is what can be observed from the town walls, combined with information from the trading caravans and military excursions done decades ago.
So the party makes their name running errands for some mooks in town, or they are well known bar brawlers, or whatever else. They are now level one, and feeling buff and brawny enough to head out into the breach. They can possibly procure a 'map' of the Nightlands, but nothing more than a few miles from Lumina would be accurate in the slightest. Sure, the landmasses might not have changed all that much, but towns that existed thousands of years ago will probably not exist anymore, except as barely recognizable ruins. Actually, even the coasts have moved and changed. Volcanoes erupt and expand the coastline here, a sea cave has collapsed and removed a few miles of coastline. Nothing produced thousands of years ago is accurate at all.
So as opposed to your normal party heading southwards towards that castle ruin on their map, the Nightlands group can head southwards and hope that something remains of the castle that they read about in the engravings in another ruin. Of course, from the walls of Lumina, one can see a few features scattered about. All that anyone in town knows for certain is what they can see from the walls, or from scaling the wizard's tower in the center of town as high as they dare.
Come to think of it, I don't believe I've placed Lumina in any particular type of terrain, other than one that can support a river and presumably has some area that can be mined through without flooding. It does have to be basically free of major natural disasters, so that it's still standing and in reasonable shape despite having no outside assistance for centuries. Ok, we'll put Lumina on a temperate plains sort of area. Mostly flat land around, with some rolling hills in the distance. Since the outside lands have been free of human(oid) deforesting for so long, it's slightly wooded now, limiting vision to major features. The river flows somewhat lazily over such terrain, but the occasional flooding can be controlled via floodgates built by the golems that protect the city. This means the dwarves likely had to dig through quite a depth of soft, spongy soil before getting to proper stone. Still, one presumes that dwarves don't mind mining a bit.
A terrain set like this gives the citizens of Lumina some tantalizing proximity to a few ancient structures. They can see them, but they know they can't explore them. Attempts to explore usually end in death for everyone involved, because it's dangerous and stupid to go outside the walls, as we've covered. So this provides a starting point for groups that announce a desire to head into the Nightlands. That ruined tower that the populace sees to the north, when the menacing dark seems to lighten a bit, is a suitable dare for this bigshots to go to. How's that for an opening tavern quest?
Instead of the dark stranger offering information, or the random noble who seems to hang out in bars hoping to find someone to get his lost family amulet, you can have the local neighborhood street toughs irritated by the party in there acting like big shots. The PCs think they are so tough? Fine, go to Northtower then. Stay there overnight, and bring something back that proves you were there, big shot. This has the effect of showing the party as capable of going into the Nightlands without dying, as well as establishing some low level jerks in town that can act as mild antagonists while the party is there.
Well I've been going on long enough here. The point is that adventuring in the Nightlands should have a feeling of going into the unknown. No one knows what dangers await out there, and they generally think you are crazy for even wondering.
More on the Nightlands later.
Design Flow: Teaching Setting
2 days ago