With yet another version of D&D in the works, my thoughts turn to the initial excitement that I felt in the run-up to the current version of D&D. I remember really getting sucked in by the pre-release setting/concept art books and the whole "points of light" campaign frame. I thought the idea of isolated settlements in a very dangerous world really got to the heart of what D&D felt like to me. I remember working out a pseudo-Points of Light campaign set in an alternate version of New Zealand that was tailor-made for the new system.
Well, long-story-short, I decided I wasn't all that keen on 4e.
There was a lot that I liked in the initial batch of 4e books, especially the DMG and Monster Manuals. But in play it just wasn't my thing. I moved backwards (OSR) and sideways (Old School Hack) and tried to stay out of the edition wars.
Unexpectedly, my thoughts have returned to fantasy. I'm not even really tuned in to the 5e discussions. I just want to do a little world building in anticipation of squeezing an occasional fantasy game into our already crowded schedule.
So here's my thought:
I was thinking about Justin Cronin's The Passage and how the vampires were kept at bay by electric lights in the post-apocalyptic world. Why not have a fantasy world where the creatures of Chaos (i.e. pretty much the entirety of the Monster Manual) could be kept at bay by lighting lamps that burned a combination of rare materials?
The lamps would create light in their local area, but nothing as bright as the stadium lights of the colony in The Passage. I'd still like to have night in the settlements.
The lamps would be large and bulky because if they were really portable, adventurers would be able to keep monsters at bay in the wilderness (and the dungeon!). I do imagine caravans carrying slightly less bulky versions of the lamps, but these might have their own difficulties. Portable lamps, might not be effective enough to keep monsters at bay but they could, perhaps, provide some benefit (that may or may not be worth the expense).
The lamps would require three or more ingredients from disparate geographical areas. That pretty much forces the existence of tenuous trade routes, linked by the aforementioned caravans. I'd do this because I've been itching to run a silk road campaign and I have some specific imagery in mind for the various settlements.
Finally, I imagine that world wasn't always like this and that some kind of apocalypse wiped out a grand civilization. I do not think that this civilization was our own and I think I would prefer to have it be distinctly non-medieval (and non-western). I think the level of pre-apocalyptic technology would at least be industrial, though much of that technology has now been lost (waiting to be discovered in the ruins).