|Age of Mythology (2002)|
BEACONS OF LIGHT
- It fulfills the basic requirements that our fantasy media demands: improbably large cities immediately surrounded by huge amounts of wilderness. These cities are self-sustaining because of magic plenty vaults, and that means they don't need farmland. The bigger the vault, the bigger the city—simple.
- It means the wilderness can be dangerous. Normally in D&D there's this overriding question of "why don't the 2d100 goblins in the cave just crush the local village?" Here, it's simple: all the towns are really old and well-fortified because they want to protect their magic food supply from a world full of D&D monsters. It also provides some obvious and convenient motivation for those 2d100 goblins to act aggressively towards towns—they want that magic food supply.
- It provides a plausible-enough excuse for high fantasy bullshit that's totally out of wack with the standard medieval millieu. If your population-one-million Fantasy Rome doesn't need to have 90% of those people farming, it's not that implausible to suggest that their (magic-)technological speeds would advance quicker than our own human history, thus allowing lots of fun high fantasy nonsense.
- It's an easy way to give each of your cities a very distinct identity: this one's built in the middle of inhospitable arctic wilderness; this one's dug into the face of a gigantic cliffside; this one's atop the back of a huge walking elemental. Why? Same reason for each: people found a plenty vault there, and so now it's a city. You can double up on this by having weird city-specific offering requirements for each vault—the cliff-city's vault demands one pure sapphire for every hundred tons of food, so now it's a major mining hub.
- Relatedly, because the wilderness is so dangerous, naturally each city needs some huge high-fantasy entity that protects it. This city is watched over by an ancient dragon, this one is warded by a wizard school, this other one still is run by a megalomaniacal beholder's secret mafia. Monsters that want minions need to feed those minions, and so they gravitate to the vaults.
- It helps keep the world in a kind of relative stasis. While it's very in-vogue for the OSR to have constant background churning—factions clash, politicians backstab, armies march, borders change—your classic fantasy world needs to stay pretty still (until the heroes arrive to mess things up). A world where the outside is super dangerous and every city is quite isolated ensures that, while cities themselves can be a bit volatile, the broader world status quo is unlikely to change anytime too soon.