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The Civilization-Wilderness Gradient

wilderness civilization frontier rural walls enemies danger safety guards monsters

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Poll: The Civilization-Wilderness Gradient in PE (47 member(s) have cast votes)

In terms of development, what kind of gradients are you looking for?

  1. Very sharp, at the town walls. As soon as you step out of the gate, you should be face to face with wilderness. (3 votes [4.69%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 4.69%

  2. Steep/sharp, but a bit further out. Towns have a hinterland buffer consisting of farmsteads and refugee shantytowns, surrounded by an outer ring of palisades that starkly denotes the wilderness. (13 votes [20.31%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 20.31%

  3. Relatively steep. There should be a few grain fields and/or peasants' hovels/shacks hugging the town's walls, but the transition to wilderness should loom in the distance. (18 votes [28.12%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 28.12%

  4. Relatively smooth. Medium towns should be surrounded by a network of smaller agricultural villages, and the further you venture from town, the less developed the land is. (24 votes [37.50%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 37.50%

  5. Very smooth. The distinction between developed urban areas and rural areas is somewhat artificial and arbitrary, and realistically there shouldn't be any clear dividing line. (3 votes [4.69%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 4.69%

  6. Something else. (3 votes [4.69%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 4.69%

In terms of safety/danger, what kind of gradients are you looking for?

  1. Very steep, at the town walls. Guards don't leave town, and adventurers who do are swarmed by monsters. (3 votes [5.08%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 5.08%

  2. Steep/sharp, but a bit further out. Guards have secured the hinterland surrounding towns, but you leave that obviously defined perimeter at your own peril. (12 votes [20.34%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 20.34%

  3. Relatively steep. There should be a few guards patrolling around the oustide of the town's walls and along main roads, but straying too far is dangerous. (23 votes [38.98%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 38.98%

  4. Relatively smooth. Guards travel between towns and surrounding villages, but the level of guard presence decreases gradually as you move further from town. (16 votes [27.12%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 27.12%

  5. Very smooth. There shouldn't be anywhere that you can feel 100% safe, and there equally shouldn't be anywhere where you have 100% chance of encountering monsters. (2 votes [3.39%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 3.39%

  6. Something else. (3 votes [5.08%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 5.08%

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#1
mcmanusaur

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I believe we've discussed this issue indirectly before, but I wanted to make a poll about it. This may seem like a small thing, but I think it's things like this that greatly determine the overall "feel" of the setting (comfortable, uncertain, risky, etc.). Keep in mind this only applies to the overworld; there could be hidden entrances to dungeons in areas considered "safe". Obviously this kind of thing would vary a bit from town to town depending on where they were located (ex. on the frontier, or in the heartland of a political state), but I still think that many RPGs demonstrate a pattern of quite abrupt (to the point of feeling artificial) transitions between civilization (urban centers) and wilderness (everything else), leaving civilized but rural areas out of the picture, so I am curious to hear other people's thoughts.


Edited by mcmanusaur, 11 July 2013 - 10:11 AM.

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#2
Nonek

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A good point, I could never understand why Beregost in BG failed to erect a stockade, when it was functionally beset by monster within sight of the housing. Personally I expect the world to mostly be safe so long as one keeps to the highways and byways, but the frontier wilderness persists further back in the Dyrwood. Wouldn't mind a well orchestrated siege like Targos in IWD2 again, thought that was very well done.


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#3
NerdBoner

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A good point, I could never understand why Beregost in BG failed to erect a stockade, when it was functionally beset by monster within sight of the housing.

Beregost had a Flaming Fist garrison, you could barely rob a house of a few gold coins without having a squad of them on your ass...



#4
mcmanusaur

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Edited the poll to add "very smooth" options, since the "relatively smooth" options are decently popular.



#5
eschaton

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In general, I think role-playing games overplay the wilderness aspect given the period in question.  True wilds became rare as the middle ages progressed, and as this is an Early Modern game, there should be even rarer.  By the 16th century in Britain, use of coal instead of wood for home heating and cooking became common in large part because virtually all forests had been chopped down.  

 

That is not to say there might not be dangers in the fields, particularly in times during or after wars and famines.  But virtually all good land should be covered with farms under normal periods.  One would thus presume the amount of hostile wildlife would be rather limited.  

 

Do I think the devs will be doing this?  Not a chance.  Extensive wilderness is an established trope in RPGs.  It's just it really belongs in something like a Bronze Age setting.  The only way it works well with higher technology is if it's an established "frontier" area - such as a new continent more recently discovered.  


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#6
mcmanusaur

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In general, I think role-playing games overplay the wilderness aspect given the period in question.  True wilds became rare as the middle ages progressed, and as this is an Early Modern game, there should be even rarer.  By the 16th century in Britain, use of coal instead of wood for home heating and cooking became common in large part because virtually all forests had been chopped down.


I generally agree with that, but with combat the primary focus of many RPGs you can easily see why this is the case. I think the idea of "true" wilderness (areas yet to be mapped or explored by NPCs) can be very interesting, in opposition to the "perpetual state of semi-wilderness in every town's backyard" that many RPGs fall under. If you have frontier regions, that makes for stimulating wilderness, but transforming the little forest between two peaceful villages into a monster habitat reserve is a bit dubious.
 

That is not to say there might not be dangers in the fields, particularly in times during or after wars and famines.  But virtually all good land should be covered with farms under normal periods.


It's no accident that some of the poll option details (regarding fortified perimeters and outer rings of palisades) aren't too far away from describing wartime scenarios. Even if Skyrim has done the civil war thing now, I still think it has interesting potential for creating cultural/geographical contrasts that are believable.

 

I do agree with your points, and I'd like to see something like this.
 

One would thus presume the amount of hostile wildlife would be rather limited.
 
Do I think the devs will be doing this?  Not a chance.  Extensive wilderness is an established trope in RPGs.  It's just it really belongs in something like a Bronze Age setting.  The only way it works well with higher technology is if it's an established "frontier" area - such as a new continent more recently discovered.

Indeed. And one would think that there could enough highwaymen and brigands to make things interesting even without there being monsters everywhere. But yes, realistically there's little chance we'll see something like that in PE with its fantasy ethos and supposed combat focus.

 

Someone said that the player character is a stranger to the playable area, which could suggest that this is a more frontier-like region. After all, you do have that expansive region of forested ruins whose name I've not committed to learning yet.



#7
eschaton

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I generally agree with that, but with combat the primary focus of many RPGs you can easily see why this is the case. I think the idea of "true" wilderness (areas yet to be mapped or explored by NPCs) can be very interesting, in opposition to the "perpetual state of semi-wilderness in every town's backyard" that many RPGs fall under. If you have frontier regions, that makes for stimulating wilderness, but transforming the little forest between two peaceful villages into a monster habitat reserve is a bit dubious.

 

Speaking historically, if you're an unarmed peasant (as if there's another sort) being alone outside of town (or hell, alone in town after dark) was very dangerous, between highwaymen and the chance of running into a bear or a wild boar.  But there's little in a peacetime environment which should challenge a lawful armed party.  After all, any threat big enough to attempt to take on a half-dozen armed, well-trained adventurers would pretty quickly run afoul with the local lord, and have some expedition sent out to wipe it clean.  Only in areas which are nearly impassible (swamps, mountains), or in flux (like the Scottish Borders in the real world) was there not a quasi-monopoly on larger-scale violence by the state.

 

So how do you fit this into a fantasy setting?  I'd say the following.

 

1.  Isolated, solitary monsters are fine.  Presume something like an ogre keeps a low profile and usually makes sure to pick off only a few weak travelers on occasion.

2.  On the other hand, something like a large war band of Orcs or Goblins is just silly.  Similar bands of humans (who can at least blend in) didn't survive close to settlements except in severe times of political flux.  How a group of hostile demihumans would is beyond me.

3.  However, an exception can be made for groups of "monsters" who keep to a confined area, and aren't worth rooting out.  Say a dungeon full of hostiles.  Or a haunted city.  Or a high mountain valley with wild tribes within.  There are any number of scenarios, but for the most part, these groups have to be passive - if they're actively threatening local cities, they would have been pacified already.  


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#8
Keyrock

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It should be variable by region.  Highly civilized areas would likely have a very smooth gradient, both in terms of wilderness and danger, in some areas almost no gradient in terms of danger as whole chunks of land, towns and countryside included, would be patrolled.  In more frontier regions the gradients would be sharper.  Areas occupied by nomads or savages my basically go right from village to wilderness with no more protection than fires and safety in numbers.



#9
mcmanusaur

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It should be variable by region.  Highly civilized areas would likely have a very smooth gradient, both in terms of wilderness and danger, in some areas almost no gradient in terms of danger as whole chunks of land, towns and countryside included, would be patrolled.  In more frontier regions the gradients would be sharper.  Areas occupied by nomads or savages my basically go right from village to wilderness with no more protection than fires and safety in numbers.

 

Of course it should, as I acknowledged in the OP, and the question then primarily becomes about which kinds of regions one wants to have most of in PE, and secondarily whether there are any kind of gradients that are inherently unrealistic.



#10
Tsuga C

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1st Q: relatively smooth.  Unless the locality is a boom town for mining or some such activity, medium and large towns are seldom found out in the wilderness because they're rarely self-sufficient.  They need trade to be viable, so a more seamless and less abrupt urban-rural transition should be the norm.  Exceptions are fine when there are logical reasons for them to exist.

 

 

2nd Q: relatively steep.  Within sight of the walls of a medium-sized town you should generally be quite safe during daylight hours and the same applies to the patrolled primary roads.  Chances of an encounter at night and/or on secondary or tertiary roads and their associated areas should rise dramatically--bandits, hostile demi-humans, crossroads devils, lycanthropes, fey seeking help or looking to cause mischief, etc.  Let the adventuring begin!



#11
Sacred_Path

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I think they should take cues from Baldur's Gate 1, and I think I can remember that this is what they were shooting for in terms of content density. I think the outdoors should always be relatively unsafe; It's very hard to get the player immersed in the world and excited when you know that you can travel out of the city, pass some farmsteads on the next map, then onto another map that only contains meadows and butterflies, and only when you're three maps removed from the city danger starts to seep in. Therefore, like in BG1, I want to see some safe smaller settlements around towns, but as soon as you move 2-3 screens away from the last sign of civilization, you should possibly run into some straggling monsters/ outlaws.

IIRC the Dyrwood is to have a bit of a colonization theme going on, so it needs dat frontier feel IMO. The concept sketch of a village doesn't feature any (functional) fortifications though, so they might not share my vision.

Overall P:E will be a dungeon-heavy game, and therefore I think development of the surface world isn't so critical.

#12
LadyCrimson

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Relatively smooth in both cases.

This can, of course, be varied depending on the story-aspect of a particular area/map/town. eg, if a town is at war with a neighboring town, or in an area where raids by orcs/monsters/enemies are very frequent (or whatever), then it should shift to steep/sharp or relatively steep.

So it's dependent somewhat on each situation, but my votes reflect what I want/like in the general sense.

#13
Jarmo

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Other.

 

If you take some capital city, with surrounding towns and villages and every bit of land either reserved for agriculture or as some park like hunting grounds for local nobles. Then the wilderness shouldn't be there at all really. Except for the occasional river-troll or another plague or dead raising from the graves and such. Most likely there's a town wall, but that's in case of an invasion or a peasant revolt.

 

Then again, you might have a mining town much further away in the wilds. Might be tribes of angry savages nearby. Then the wilds can start right after the palisade. Almost nobody besides a few rangers venture outside. You have your wells and small gardens inside the walls of the settlement, but mostly the food and stuff comes in the same way the ore goes out. By ships or riverboats.

 

Even in the second example though, you wouldn't be likely to be jumped by eleven dinosaurs right after you step outside the perimeter. Might still be noticed by elven scouts or something.



#14
Tsuga C

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Overall P:E will be a dungeon-heavy game, and therefore I think development of the surface world isn't so critical.


I certainly hope by "dungeon-heavy" you mean no more than 70% sapient-created environments (e.g. castles, dungeons, cities, etc.}. I'd like to have a substantial portion of the world comprised of wildernesses of various ecotypes. Where else might druids and rangers truly shine?

Edited by Tsuga C, 11 July 2013 - 01:59 PM.

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#15
Lephys

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I think main, established-more-than-like-a-year-ago cities/towns should probably have a varying-though-relatively-consistent buffer of de-wildernessed land around them. But, of course, some little villages and outposts might be kind of right in the thick of things. Maybe they don't have large enough populi (populuses?) to really use up the natural resources in the area faster than they can grow back, and/or they're not as technologically demanding of resources, etc.

Also... uncharted explorable wilderness, FTW!
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#16
Sacred_Path

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Overall P:E will be a dungeon-heavy game, and therefore I think development of the surface world isn't so critical.


I certainly hope by "dungeon-heavy" you mean no more than 70% sapient-created environments (e.g. castles, dungeons, cities, etc.}. I'd like to have a substantial portion of the world comprised of wildernesses of various ecotypes. Where else might druids and rangers truly shine?


I think they haven't clarified any of that yet. As for rangers and druids, considering the balancing efforts, I expect them to be useful regardless of terrain.

#17
mcmanusaur

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I'm sort of using "wilderness" in a loose sense here to mean any undeveloped land (which nine times out of ten in an RPG will entail combat encounters), although what some of you are saying is historically accurate with regard to European medieval society, and I wouldn't mind seeing an RPG that mimics that more faithfully. However, I don't think that's the only conceivable outcome, especially when you take the fantasy elements into account, not to mention that the extant sociopolitical systems in PE might differ from those of real history. For example, is the social distribution of capital- mundane, magic, or otherwise- comparable to the inequity of feudalism?

 

At any rate, though I'd certainly like to see more peaceful rural areas, I think exorcising all wilderness from the overworld is the wrong move in the long run. Does it really make sense for loads of conspicuous baddies to hide out in dungeons at the same time that the guards keep the overworld spotless and monster-free? Wouldn't they eventually die out at some point, or get purged from their hiding places? Or do the civilized races only feel that their properties and territories are limited to the surface? At least if you have some wilderness, or at least a frontier, you have a source for the evil, rather than it seeming like monsters are playing a perpetual game of sardines in all the dungeons.

 

This isn't to say that an underground scourge of evil creatures couldn't be interesting, but if we want to have a lot of dungeons around (which isn't nearly as high a priority for me as it is for some others on this forum), surely they should be situated in a manner more convincing than that which suggests that all these dungeons were simply left lying around so that roaming parties of adventurers would have something to do?

 

Of course, I am a proponent of a somewhat more smooth gradient than is featured by most RPGs, or else I wouldn't have made this thread. However, I find it a bit contradictory that someone could seemingly wish for an overworld that is both wilderness-free and packed with crunchy dungeons. Although it is very possible for dungeons to exist in civilized areas, I think that generally the amounts of wilderness and dungeons should be directly proportional to each other.


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#18
Nonek

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Looking at the Eternity map i'm inclined to think that civilisation is mainly gathered around the coast, that highways have been trailblazed through the Dyrwood and are maintained by eager settlers, but are also more vulnerable than anyone would wish to admit.

 

Personally I don't equate the setting with medieval Britain or Europe which had seen millenia of sustained, coordinated settlement by the middle ages. I'm thinking more of North America, with the Vaillians (Mexicans) to the south, and the English (Aedyr) to the north, and the rebellious states of the Dyrwood fiercely pursuing independence. In this set-up of course we would have the Glenfathans playing as the the Native Americans (though they are migrants too,) and it's their attitude to the Free Palatinate of the Dyrwood that will decide how dangerous the land is in my eyes.

 

Monsters are fine, as a nuissance they may well be mainly ignored or left to wandering bravos to dispose of, but if they are proving a hindrance to trade and colonisation one can imagine that the ruling powers will hunt them down and exterminate them as the dumb beasts they are. The Glenfathans one imagines are a whole other matter, they seem to be a warrior society with their fondness for Barbarians, and as intelligent adversaries might easily disrupt the vulnerable overland trade routes into the Dyrwood. Not to mention making the settlers lives dangerous in the extreme.

 

Edit: Of course in the no mans land of a quiet war between the Dyrwood and Glenfathans, one can imagine monsters thriving on the lawlessness and ample prey of the conflict.


Edited by Nonek, 11 July 2013 - 03:19 PM.

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#19
Sacred_Path

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Monsters are fine, as a nuissance they may well be mainly ignored or left to wandering bravos to dispose of, but if they are proving a hindrance to trade and colonisation one can imagine that the ruling powers will hunt them down and exterminate them as the dumb beasts they are.


In a lot of settings, monsters thrive toe-to-toe with developed intelligent species and their sprawling cities/ industries. IOW, monsters aren't the kind of thing that yields to logic.

#20
Inarius

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I voted relatively steep for both options mostly because of production constraints. My ideal game would be relatively smooth for both options, but I don't think its exactly feasible when you're making a game with budget constraints and trying to cram as much content into it as you can. Those tame areas ultimately become a drain on resources when you consider the amount of time that has to go into someplace people are just going to walk through to get to the adventuring parts of the game.

 

Ironically the one game I can think of that has done this is an MMO called Tera. The capital city has an entire zone empty around it that's free of mobs with a few outlying manors, npcs, and guard patrols. Quite a few main town hubs also have a buffer zone on at least one side. It's interesting but after the first few times going through those areas I found myself just skipping them and using the transit system to get where i wanted to go.







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: wilderness, civilization, frontier, rural, walls, enemies, danger, safety, guards, monsters

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