The Transitive Isles is supposed to be a modular, lightly defined starting area as a 4th edition Living EnWorld setting.
== Philosophy ==
The setting is supposed to be deep and flexible; inclusive but easy to judge.
*Deep: When an element is introduced it should be done in a flavorful and interesting way.
*Flexible: As much as possible each element should stand on it's own and be removed or added back in a way that does not disrupt IC game flow.
Respect the future and the pastEdit
The current individuals involved in creating L4W are just a small segment of the people who have contributed, and who will contribute in the future. The Transitive Isles embraces this by being modular.
=== Modular ===
Modularity means two things
*setting elements should be modules that can be attached or detached from the setting
*the degree of connection to the setting can be modulated up or down (things like irregular portals and uncertain travel allow you to adjust how much impact a given element has on the setting)
A modular setting allows a DMs to create innovative and unique settings, situations and adventures without struggling with past decisions and without fear that they will disrupt the games of others in the future.
A modular setting lowers the burden on judges by allowing flexibility in the game world itself; nobody needs to justify why things change, and characters don't need to "roleplay around weirdness". A boat trip that took 2 days suddenly takes 6 now? The Seas have Shifted....
Each region of the setting, Daunton and the Proximate Isles, The Close Isles, Allaria and The Far Lands play different roles, enabling DMs to run different sorts of games and players to experience a wide variety of adventures in one inclusive setting.
Daunton and the Proximate IslesEdit
The "home base" of the setting; Daunton is a civilized nation that embraces tolerance and learning along side robust mercantilism. Adventures in Daunton may feature fights in back allies but fighting on the streets is rare in the current era and games set in Daunton should normally feature an element of intrigue and politics. It is a city with a deep (if unwritten) history try to think about ways to build off of existing historical events, or creating new ones when you prepare adventures.
The Proximate Isles are dominated by Daunton, while they include areas that feature sites for adventuring (most prominently the Shadowrift on Kythira
and the abandoned lower levels of the Monastery on Mykonos' Sanctuary) as well as more civilized settings in the small city of Bacarte, the mixed settlement on the isle of opposition and the Imperium Outposts.
These elements are designed to play off of Daunton and to create the feeling of a vibrant exciting fantasy world without disrupting the play environment. While the judges may approve adventures that bring excitement to the streets of Daunton we do not currently feel that the setting is well served by having many adventures that feature "monsters amok in the streets" or "wizard almost destroys the city".
The Near LandsEdit
The Near Lands are where most adventures will occur. They are far enough away to involve a journey of some variety (usually by ship or transitive plane) and thus can include many elements that would raise issues if they were located on Daunton's doorstep (or if certain close isles were located next to each other). See Finding a Place for an Idea for an example of how to turn an element you think should be "near Daunton" into a Near Land.
Allaria is a PoL environment like the one featured in the non-setting setting for 4th edition DnD. A lost human dominated kingdom, crumbling ruin filled landscape, imperiled communities eking out a scratchdust existence and quailing in fear of myriad ascendant forces of darkness. Allaria's traditions and fall loom large in the Dauntonian psyche, but they are not the overriding motivating force that dominates day to day existence. Characters can adventure on Allaria but also adventure in a more traditional setting allowing them to experience a wide variety of game play
The Far LandsEdit
To be "exiled" to the far lands an element generally features two characteristics
*It is significantly different in tone and style than "traditional DnD" -- the Kingdom of Jade, the Isle of Bone and the Imperium each has a different flavor from traditional DnD; while efforts have been made to incorporate them into the setting they are supposed to be exotic and that requires a degree of distance.
*It includes a large civilization that could potentially dwarf Daunton -- Daunton's identity as a beacon of light in a dark and shifting sea is mitigated if there is a massive thousand year old empire located nearby. By pushing these places into the Far Lands we can introduce elements (characters, items, plots) into our setting that are informed by these rich traditions without turning the setting itself upside down.
Since they are significantly different from Daunton it is possible that one or more elements could become disruptive... therefor all far lands feature methods of being cut of in the game world that adhere to the requirements of verisimilitude.
Modularity and Elements Roles: An Example of Finding a Place for an IdeaEdit
Lets say that someone wants to add an element, to our communal setting. The "threat of attack by savage humanoids on Daunton". They feel this element is a classic DnD trope and offers advantages for DMs who are just starting off: the adventure location is right around the corner, and it's easy to justify a motley group of adventurers rushing off to fend off the attacks.
So the would-be creator suggests that the interior of Daunton, currently undefined, features tribes of savage humanoids; they want to have a lot of travel and different tribes so they suggest that Daunton be three hundred miles long and filled with many different tribes of creatures.
However, while this is a great idea for a typical DnD adventure, the proposal has an impact on the setting as a whole that needs to be considered. Savage humanoids living in close proximity to Daunton raises a number of issues when looked at in the context of the setting as a whole.
* Daunton is presented as a wealthy civilized city on a small island; a city under constant attacks by powerful tribes
* Daunton is presented as a wealthy city (largely because it justifies having people who can afford to hire adventures and to trade expensive magical items adventurers want to trade). Why don't they just hire city guards? Is the city so disorganized that it's only defense are 1st level volunteers?
* Daunton is wealthy, and until recently was protected by powerful heroes... why are there savage tribes located so close to their borders
:*Are these tribes so powerful that even the Five couldn't stop them? They sound more like kingdoms then, certainly powerful enough to destroy a small non-military city like Daunton
:*Are these tribes so powerful that even even a wealthy city like Dauton can't afford mercenaries to uproot them? If that's the case then it seems strange that 5 1st level characters could defeat them (that is the point of DnD.... the adventurers defeat the monsters)
*Since we allow Monstrous Races as Player Characters Daunton, our main city, must accept them. It seems unlikely that the city would be so accepting of these monstrous characters if they are under constant assault by the same monsters.
*Daunton is a place player characters leave to go adventuring; if it's under constant attacks that are held off only by a handful of brave adventurers then there is little reason for characters to leave.
*A three hundred mile long island transforms Daunton into a very small city on what is effectively an entire country of savage monsters. With that scope it seems unlikely that anyone would settle on Daunton initially, or survive for very long.
Looking at all these reasons it seems like including lots of savage humanoids right on Daunton's borders raises a number of significant problems and would require significant changes to the whole setting to make sense; including jettisoning a lot of other good elements that the setting currently features.
But the desire to run an adventure featuring savage humanoid attacks is a perfectly reasonable one.... how do we accommodate these conflicting goals? The answer is modularity.
By moving the humanoids to a Close Land, in this case the Savage Lands, we remove the problems caused by having a massive horde of monstrous humanoids right on Daunton's borders. These Savage Lands can be massive, featuring dozens or hundreds of tribes and potentially tens of thousands of monsters spread around tens of thousands of square miles without so much as a stream for PCs to cross.
It also allows the interior of Daunton to be preserved for DMs who would like to run smaller scale adventures closer to the city, without having to worry about why the adventurers can play in their adventure without being attacked by masses of humanoids as soon as they leave the city boundary.
However the person who made the initial proposal is unsatisfied, they want to be able to have monsters attack Daunton, and have the PCs travel to fight them without boats.... but with a bit of creativity a solution can be found.
Dusting off an earlier rejected idea Daunton's interior is connected to the feywild, which in turn is connected to the Savage Lands. These connections were suppressed, until recently; this explains why Daunton is peaceful, and does not have a well developed border defense; justifying the cities unreadiness and highlighting the need for adventurers. Furthermore a magical connection to the feywild can be unpredictable, allowing humanoids to attack the city occasionally without placing the city on war footing, or having to justify why these monster attacks aren't showing up in every other game currently located in the city.
To ground this newly-resurgent-feywild-linked-humanoid-area in the history of Daunton and explain its sudden reappearance we turn to our ever ready tool, The Five. The death of the Five has triggered a resurgence in these connections to the feywild; however the time frame doesn't work. We want "savage humanoid attacks" to be a feature of the past, far enough back that the cities current acceptance of monstrous humanoids and lack of defensive preparations makes sense. So a new character is created, Alga the Black, is created. She is a heroic character, linked to one of the five, who suppressed the feywild connections.
Some extra details are added to Mauros Esthanapiros' backstory explaining his connection to the deceased Alga; to further reinforce the city's lack of preparations we decide to give Mauros kept the fact that the ritual was temporary and had to be maintained a secret he held a deep unrequited love for Alga wished to preserve her reputation. Not that we state it in our text of course, it's better for the players to find that out in play, so we simply hint at it.
Turning back to the interior we decide to leave the possibility for a small group of savage humanoids, so we suggest that bugbears used to dwell there and fight with shifters, but seem to have disappeared. Bugbears have a sneaky, crafty reputation so it offers interesting possibilities without being disruptive.
You can see from this example that utilizing the modularity of the setting actually adds to its richness. Instead of simply brawling with humanoids player characters can have additional non-combat related goals, such as discovering Mauros' secrets or reenacting the rituals themselves (and thus allowing a bunch of low level characters to save Daunton from attack from an army of humanoids in a way that makes sense).
The Transitive Isles borrows elements from various suggestions with an eye toward creating a world with enough verisimilitude for roleplaying. It's a mash-up of the current proposals and suggestions on the LEW Discussion thread, with some adjustments necessary to make it easier for judges to judge, DMs to create and players to have unusual characters without it disrupting other people's enjoyment/sense of verisimilitude.
I will almost certainly not be adopted (and it's both modular and re-skinable for that reason). But if you don't like some or all of it coming up with fun and usable substitutions will be better than saying "not like Tolkien, dun like it".