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Choke Point Geography
The hero's journey is a long, winding road, fraught with dangerous monster battles, maybe a princess to save, and the inevitable dungeon. Many game designers (mainly console RPGs) have a story to tell, which involves you and your party going from Town A to Dungeon B to see NPC C, and occasionally going back to Town A to stock up on supplies for the next encounter.

With that principle in mind, the world map will be designed in such a way that one or more dungeons will lead to parts inaccessible by travel on foot. You may have to bypass a Beef Gate at the end by defeating it in a Boss Battle, at which point you can travel freely through the dungeon at your leisure (provided you can still handle the monsters that lurk within). The Bonus Dungeon is almost always exempt from this trope, since those are often placed in far out-of-reach locations, presumably to dissuade newbie adventurers from getting themselves killed after wiping their feet on the welcome mat.

Somewhat Truth in Television, in that geography sometimes conspires to put up natural traffic barriers that can only be conveniently bypassed at a few locations (mountain passes being the classic example), and that as a result people tend to put up border guard posts, fortresses, and other types of traffic control points on them to keep out unwelcome visitors.

Compare Convenient Questing and Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence. Can be circumvented completely once you Get on the Boat or acquire a Global Airship.


Examples:

Video Games
  • A variation occurs in many Real-Time Strategy games, where the map is often a square shape and units cannot exit the map to circle around. Similarly, forests (or other large swathes of resources), rather than being treated as rough terrain, are often obstacles...as long as they're still standing. This can lead to interesting moments when a less-experienced player will set up his base to defend via chokepoints created by trees...only to be rather screwed later in the mission when his worker units have removed all the chokepoints.
    • This trope occasionally pops up in Turn-Based Strategy games, most notoriously the Nintendo Wars series, where a one-tile pass can be completely choked off by placing a fighter jet on the open tile. If the enemy force has no units which can attack a fighter, you've effectively created an unassailable buttplug that breaks the map in your favor.
  • In order to not break the game's sequence, in Baldur's Gate II you start in Waukeen's Promenade and have to go to the Slums next, where you meet a representative of the Shadow Thieves who offers to help you and gives you a goal to shoot for this chapter. From the Slums, no matter which way you exit, you can suddenly go anywhere in the city.
  • Subverted in Perfect World. Usually, the only thing leading you to your next destination is a small path and a yellow arrow. This has led to certain new players ending up in places inhabited by level 50 or higher enemies.
    • It's even worse with the Winged Elf race. This race has wings, so now all that's guiding you is a yellow arrow if you decide to fly there. Granted, all characters get flight at level 30, so everyone has this problem.
      • A new(ish) patch allows you to set an icon on your map that signals where you have to go (provided you check your quest log frequently), complete with an auto-walk/fly feature that makes a beeline to it; however, if you're not flying or paying attention you can easily fall down mountains, run right into walls or end up in higher level areas.
  • In Diablo II, the only way out of Khanduras (Act I) to the Desert of Aranoch (Act II) is through the Rogue's Pass, a narrow monastery pass through the mountains defended previously by the Sisters of the Sightless Eye and presently by the hordes of hell.
    • Instead of having to go all the way through the monastery, there is a set of portculli that wagon caravans like Warriv's presumably take. The REAL mystery is how they got through The Underground Passage, a network of narrow, twisting caves just before the monastery.
  • Dragon Quest I utilized this with the swamp cave leading to the town of Rimuldar, the first of only a few places in Alefgard where you can purchase Magic Keys.
  • Dragon Quest IV: The Final Boss is in the Overworld behind the Final Dungeon, since you can only take your active party into a dungeon. This way, you can use a magical horn to summon the wagon with your inactive party members, who can then swap in and out during the big showdown. You remembered to give the horn to one of your active party members, right?
  • Final Fantasy IX: Conde Petie, the dwarf home situated on two roots of the Iifa tree spanning a chasm between a large plateau and the mountains, blocks passage to the Iifa Tree and Madain Sari, the village of the summoners. Note that the various Gates (South Gate, etc.) are not examples of this since, while they regulate passage through the mountains, they do not involve stairs or narrow areas that would prevent vehicular transportation.
  • In Legend of Legaia, several such blockades exist: Drake Castle (blocking Drake Kingdom from Mt. Rikuroa and Noa's cave; bypass-able once Zeto's Dungeon is beaten), Mt. Rikuroa (blocking Drake Kingdom from Noa's cave; bypass-able once Zeto's Dungeon is beaten), the Biron Monastery (blocking Drake Kingdom from the East and West Voz Forests and Genesis Trees and the Ancient Wind Cave), the Ancient Wind Cave (blocking Drake Kingdom from the Sebucus Islands; the Witch who runs the inn here explains that there haven't been travelers since the mist came, so travel between Drake and the Sebecus Islands before then presumably had to travel through the narrow caverns and consisted only of people on foot or traveling with Seru), and Zeto's Dungeon (the mist from which blocks a passage to Noa's cave). The Sebucus Islands go on to prove this game is filled with the cliche. Almost all of these literally follow the Mountain Passage premise, and those that do not operate in a similar fashion. Biron Monastery is a near-perfect example in that you must enter through narrow doors (multiple sets), proceed through the training/entrance hall, through a shrine room (close enough to a throne room), up stairs, past the sleeping quarters (barracks), and through another hall and up the stairs in the hall (multiple sets) and then out two more sets of narrow doors.
    • The Biron Monastery gets a pass, because the deadly mist that's been covering the world for the last ten years had to be held back somehow, and the solution to that was to make all entrances and exits in Biron airlocks. Traffic is restricted, but since there's no traffic to speak off, it's not a problem.
  • The Lufia series uses this trope a lot. Caves feature stairs leading out (or in, depending on your perspective, but you only see the stairs once you're inside), and many caves are mandatory routes of travel from one place to another (without a ship or submarine), which would seem to make traveling with a wagon or any sort of vehicle difficult. Also, many of these caves appear to be dark and wet and leading horses or any wheeled vehicle down a slippery set of stairs in darkness is not conducive to safe travel (though there are monsters anyway, but a sword can't thwart the danger of slipping and breaking your leg). The argument could be made that the stairs are simply an abstraction, but they could have just as easily abstracted a gradual slope rather than clearly cut (and bumpy for wheeled travel) stone stairs.
  • The first Star Ocean featured the city of Coule sitting right smack in the middle of a mountain blocking travel between Kraat and Portmith.
  • StarTropics. Several times. This game perfected the implementation of the Fetch Quest, But Thou Must, and Broken Bridge tropes.
  • Golden Sun has this; in fact, one the few occasions were it doesn't have it, it's common for players to miss the town/dungeon that they were meant to go to first (for example, people attempting to go to Kolima and instead going north and fighting Saturos - who is a very hard early-game boss with 2000HP - and then fighting the first real boss, Tret - who has 500HP).
  • Especially annoying in Phantasy Star III, even if you're a Layan. Throughout the earlier generations, the only way to get to other worlds is by traveling through caves.
  • This is justified in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. The only way into the Blight is through an inn/barracks/base filled with soldiers. It makes sense, because it's stopping the blight getting out.
    • However, you can freely hover over the wall at any point if you have a levitate spell, which can be learned very early in the game. Elder scrolls games generally avert this trope, you can generally travel freely over the game's area without any restrictions.
    • Plus you don't actually have to go inside the building, you just have to hit a couple of buttons to open the gate.
    • Shows up in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in the Planes of Oblivion, where getting to the central towers often requires going through a series of caves filled with monsters or in a looping path around the rocks at the edge of the map. note  Mankind is not privy to the details of how you'd actually launch an invasion from these supposed military installations.
  • World of Warcraft has zones connected only at certain points, with the rest of the border blocked by impassable mountains, wide seas or gulfs, or in the case of Pandaria a huge wall. These can be skipped when you learn flying for each part of the world, though it is likely that by that time you will be done with questing there. A few chokepoints need to be opened by a quest event:
    • Getting to Winterspring means either fighting past the Furbolgs guarding the tunnel into it or gaining their trust, though with the expansions this has become both much easier and less important.
    • Most zones of the Calaclysm expansion have introductory quests that bring the player to them, though simply flying there is always an option.
    • The Vale of Eternal Blossoms, with the Hub City for Pandaria, is unlocked after a few quests to gain the trust of the Celestials guarding it.
  • Ossa Trail and Gaoracchia Forest in Tales of Symphonia.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, you have to go through a cave called the Weasand of Cados to get to the desert from Nordopolica.
  • The Legend of Dragoon is made of this, especially on Serdio. To get to Hellena Prison from Seles, you have to go through the Forest. From Hellena to Bale, you have to pass through the Prairie and Limestone Cave. From the Kingdom of Basil to the Sandoran Empire, you have to go through the Volcano Villude and the Dragon's Nest. Disc 2 is just as bad in Tiberoa.
  • In Wandering Hamster, Bob and James have to pass through the Troll Mountains to get to Lord Broaste's castle the rest of the world.
  • The map of Shining the Holy Ark is split down the middle by a mountain range. The only way to get through is by a going through a series of caves, that are of course invested with monsters. The top of the map is covered with Frictionless Ice which seemed to be designed to waste the players time.
  • Utterly averted in Final Fantasy II. Other than various islands, there's nowhere you can't go as soon as you leave the first town of the game (theoretically, at least, assuming you don't get horribly murdered by enemies several levels above you the second you stray too far off the beaten path.)
  • The overworld maps in Guild Wars 2 aren't technically connected to each other, so geography is used to funnel the players to the portals that are used to travel to different areas.
  • The roads between each nation in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory are infested with monsters and capped with a Beef Gate that must be cleared once to allow the party to fast-travel past them. When Plutia asks why they have to do this when the previous game had no such mechanic, Neptune shrugs and comments it's a Retcon.
  • Dynasty Warriors and its many spinoffs tend to have the map littered with chokepoints very convenient for funneling you into confrontations with non-Red Shirt enemies. In the loosely historical entries, many of these are based on actual chokepoints, although the geography bears little to no resemblance to real life.

Real Life
  • Truth in Television, especially before the invention of air travel and still relevant in the maritime business. Specific examples:
    • The Strait of Hormuz, which separate the Indian Ocean from the Persian Gulf (with major oil fields) - sink a couple of vessels (or toss some mines) in there and you seriously damage the global economy as 20% of the world's oil passes through it annually.
    • The Suez Canal was blocked for several years following the Six Day War of 1967. For a more recent example that hits nerds closer to home, an accident in the Suez Canal in 2004 blocked a shipment of Playstation 2's heading for the UK holiday season.
    • The Khyber Pass, since time immemorial a chokepoint connecting Central Asia to South Asia.
    • The Panama Canal - its construction saves several thousand miles and several months' worth of sailing around a notoriously treacherous Cape Horn around the southern tip of South America. Very useful historically for the United States, as with it naval ships could be transferred much more easily between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as needed.
    • Singapore, a major sea transit hub in South-East Asia. It's basically filthy rich just from harbor taxes alone. The Malacca Strait in general sees huge amounts of maritime trade (pirates are ever-present threat), which is why China is funding the development of the new Kra Canal in Thailand.
    • Gibraltar and its namesake Strait, as it connects the Mediterranean with the Atlantic. British control of it since the early 18th Century allowed it to exercise control over the trade through it and helps bottle up any potential invasion fleet from there sailing on the Isles.
    • The Bosporus and Dardenelles. Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul's location as a crossroads of trade both over land and by sea made it a very lucrative trading destination through history. Militarily, it also allowed its owner to severely restrict other countries' power projection. The current Montreaux Convention governs what Turkey can and cannot do in regards to other nations' ships passing through - during the Cold War the US-allied government often used those terms to largely keep the Soviet Black Sea fleet within the Black Sea and not out in the eastern Mediterranean.
      • The Soviets, in turn, got around these legal restrictions with some very creative totally-not-an-aircraft-carrier designs.note  They also turned the legal blockage back on the US on occasion - since the treaty stipulates a limit on the total amount of tonnage that can traverse the strait at a given moment, the Soviets would often just leave a ship there in mid-transit to prevent the US or other NATO ships from using it to get a ship into the Black Sea, effectively turning it into a Warsaw Pact lake.
    • The Mohawk Valley in upstate New York was a vital target for both the British and the French during the Seven Years' War, serving as one of the only easy ways to get from the East Coast to the Midwest. French control would've heavily restricted the growth of Britain's northern colonies, while British control would've confined France to Canada.note  Years later, in peacetime, it became a key factor in the state of New York's economic growth; at one point nearly 80% of American exports went through New York City because of the Erie Canal running through the valley, connecting the Midwest to the Hudson River.
  • The GIUK (Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom) gap in the North Atlantic was a key consideration in warplanning for both World War II and a speculative World War III for the British and later the Americans. Control of this gap (combined with British control of Gibraltar) meant that supplies and manpower from the US could traverse the Atlantic relatively safely to the UK or Western Europe - they could still be harrassed (as happened in World War Two) but large-scale interdiction by hostile powers would be nigh-impossible.
  • The Fulda Gap gained strategic relevance during the Cold War. Thanks to geography, NATO planners saw three plausible avenues of attack for a potential Warsaw Pact ground invasion - the North Germany Plain along the coast, the Fulda Gap cutting through the middle of West Germany, and up the Danube River through Austria. An attack through the Fulda Gap would have been more difficult for tanks compared to the North German Plain, but the heart of both the US military's operations (Rhein-Main Air Base) and West Germany's financial center (Frankfurt) would be right in this path. Consequently, both sides allocated considerable resources to this area until The Great Politics Mess-Up.
  • On a more tactical level, Thermopylae Pass was what allowed a severely outnumbered Greek army to hold up and inflict severe losses on the invading Persians during the second invasion of Greece before being overrun, buying enough time for Athens to be evacuated before the Persians could capture it.

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