I heard some discussion going on a week or so ago saying some pretty negative things about the default D&D 4th Edition (and Essentials) setting of the Nentir Vale. The gist of it was that they (the people who were saying this, I forget who it was, sorry if I don’t attribute you personally or misquote you) didn’t like generic or default settings on principle alone. My perspective on it was (and still is) that I like the Nentir Vale. I think it’s a great place and here’s a little about why I say that and why I’m a Defender of the Vale.
Whenever a new game comes out you need a place to cut your teeth, to get your feet wet, to work out the kinks. The first example that comes to mind are video games. MMOs and single player games alike all drop you, the player, into a newbie zone or tutorial level for you to get used to your surroundings. It’s here you learn the game mechanics and the user interface. It’s here you gain a few newbie missions (kill ten rats) and meet your first NPCs, your first quest givers. And it’s here you start to learn that you’re a cut above the village folk who populate the area- you’re a hero and you’ve have great adventures ahead of you.
The first Dungeon Masters Guide included a map of the Vale and provided one or two paragraphs for every dot it. This was enough to introduce some world lore to the DM to start fleshing out the setting and to start him imagining what lies at those dots and what may lie between.
Then adventures or modules were released. Each filled in one or more of these dots with much greater detail. They included even more history, more NPCs, more quest hooks and locations.
And now the D&D Essentials boxes include even more of that- refreshed and refined.
But this is where some people will say “You don’t need all this stuff. These settings might not fit into your world. These NPCs and details might not apply to what your vision of your campaign have in store. Take these bits and mold them into what works the best for you. Rename the NPCs. Re-skin the monsters.”
But, you’re overlooking one thing. For some players, this is exactly what they need. Maybe they’ve never played D&D before. Maybe they played 20 years ago when they were students but now, after so many years of the real world and real life obligations have taken over their former fantasy lives, they need a world that’s cooked for them and ready to eat. Maybe they only have a few hours a week (or month!) to devote to a hobby and the less heavy lifting they have to do to learn an adventure or just one encounter the better it is for them to still have a full, rich environment to play their games in and get right to having fun.
Let’s not shun the Nentir Vale for being limited, cookie cutter, stereotypical or the same ole, same ole.
Let’s embrace the Nentir Vale for being a rich, living area of the world where 4-6 heroes can band together and explore along with their Dungeon Master from the Dawnforge Mountains to the Witchlight Fens. Up to Lake Wintermist and back over to Nenlast.
And lets encourage both the brand new player, who just got his Red Box, and the old timer who remembered the first time he got a Red Box. Let them know that this Vale is ready for you. Don’t feel like there’s some grandiose drama that you are expected to have detailed from the largest mountain to the smallest rat swarm. Feel comfortable within the Vale- this is your sandbox, your starting area.
When you’re ready to move on to the next “zone”, you’ll have all the experience you need to build it at that time.
Welcome to the Vale.