When the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy role-playing game was updated into its 4th edition in 2008, Wizards of the Coast decided to do something special. The previous edition had used a setting that was basically Greyhawk with the serial numbers filed off as its default setting, a step that 4th edition decided to change. Instead, they created what they intended as more of a campaign "theme" to the rulebooks than a full-blown world. That is why it has such a generic title, as opposed to a full-blown name. However, while it was intended to be relatively "fluff free", it has built up a flavor all of its own and become something of a "pseudo-setting". Due to its popularity, it's now getting its inevitableTie In Novels.In the beginning, there were two planes: the Elemental Chaos, a churning sea of matter, energy and possibility, and the Astral Sea, a plane of pure spiritual energies. From the Elemental Chaos arose the Primordials, beings of pure elements and whim who exercised their powers to create a physical reality, halfway between the Elemental Chaos and the Astral Sea. The parts of it that were too "bright" were cast away and became the Feywild, while the parts that were too "dark" became the Shadowfell. While this was going on, the Astral Sea gave rise to the Gods, who descended to the Primordial's creation (which, at that time, was much like the Elemental Chaos) and gave it stability and mortal life. Enraged by this (and probably none-too-happy about one of the gods turning the deepest part of the Elemental Chaos into the Abyss), the Primordials struck out at the Gods and thus began the Dawn War, which finally ended with the aid of the Primal Spirits (who were nominally on the Gods' side, but mostly wanted both parties to get off their lawn, so to speak) and resulted in the Primordials being primarily slain or sealed away.There were a number of other "little" events in the whole mess, such as Io (God of Dragons) being split down the middle by the Primordial Eruk-Hus, the King of Terror, only for his corpse to become Tiamat and Bahamut, an ambitious angel named Asmodeus murdering his god and creating the Devils, a god named Tharizdun going insane and needing to be sealed away (but not before he created the Abyss), and a few other minor catastrophes, but that's another story.Points of Light is a setting where most of the world is dangerous and places of safety are small and scattered (these being the eponymous "points of light"); it is a hundred years since the human-founded empire of Nerath was torn asunder in a terrible war against a massive horde of gnolls and their demonic allies. Monsters roam the wilderness, bandits haunt the roads, the dead do not rest easy in their graves, and wicked cults lurk in the cities. It is a world in need of heroes...The IDW Dungeons And Dragons comic series uses this setting.
And I Must Scream: The old D&D standby, Imprisonment, is still here. As is the similar, but much lower level (castable at level 14, compared to Imprisonment being castable only by those of at least level 29) Primal Prison. But there's some other things, too.
Torog, for example, was a god who challenged a primordial in the depths of the earth and won, but was terribly wounded - among other things, his legs were shattered, forcing him to crawl wherever he went. Affected by the primordial's curse, his wounds never healing, he spent perhaps years — or more — tearing through the underbelly of the earth before he finally found a way out... and then he discovered that if he left the Underdark, he would lose all his deific powers. The King That Crawls is still down there, dragging himself painfully through the darkness. Of course, Torog also enjoys dishing this out — anyone who asks to become one of his Exarches (basically, demigodlings/saints) has just proven themself Too Dumb to Live. To "prove themselves" he places them into a state of eternal, unspeakable torment. He has yet to release so much as one would-be Exarch from their agonies.
Of course you should see the other guy, a torturing psycho himself; Torog crawled back into the site of their battle and found the primordial still alive. So Torog took his body and fashioned the still-living creature into his castle. Torog's legions of wrackspawn are constantly mutilating and butchering it, to keep it from fully regenerating back into its original form. Ironically, the curse that binds Torog will last until the gods and the primordials lived in peace, something neither of the two would abide by.
Apocalypse Cult: This setting prominently features the Cult of Orcus, which is bent upon summoning the Prince of Undeath and thereby ending civilization as we know it. This is especially true of certain low-level pre-made campaigns such as "Keep On The Shadowfell."
Bad Guys Do The Dirty Work: Several articles relating to the Dawn War relate that without the efforts of the evil gods and their willingness to cross lines that good deities wouldnt, the primordials almost certainly would have won. Bane's utter ruthlessness, Gruumsh's tireless savagery, Asmodeus' betrayal of He Who Was(thus eliminating The Load from the God's side), and even Lolth's betrayal of Corellon(thus getting him and Sehanine involved in the war) are all credited as having been absolutely vital for the victory of the gods.
Barbarian Hero: The 4e Barbarian is still this... but now with spirit magic to back it up. An Epic Tier Barbarian may be able to literally split the skies with his warcry, or engulf himself in flames that heal him and burn his foes.
Bare-Fisted Monk: The Monk class, of course. Even comes with its own class feature that makes it as good with bare hands as it is with weapons. Averted with the Iron Soul Style Monk, though, which is a Monk that specializes in Simple weapons, and the Soaring Blade paragon path, which is a Monk that specializes in acrobatics and the usage of Heavy Blades.
Barred From The Afterlife: Honored servants of a god are supposed to go to his or her divine realm after death as Exalted. Due to the heavens being badly fractured, a large portion of these randomly end up on islands just outside their god's realm, completely blocked from entering by any mundane or magical means.
Beneath the Earth: The Underdark, which sprawls through the interior of all three versions of the world, thanks to Torog.
Bond Creatures: The Ranger's animal companion, which returned in Martial Power #1. The Shaman's whole class revolves around the loyal spirit who helps them fight. Arcane characters can also buy a familiar (who can't really fight).
Cain and Abel: Bahamut and Tiamat, as is standard for D&D. Oddly enough, Corellon and Gruumsh are also suggested to have this sort of relationship, though they'd probably kill you if you did so in their presence.
Character Alignment: invoked Toyed with. Alignment is still used as a shorthand for personality types, but it has no mechanical basis any more — or, rather, minimal mechanical basis. It pretty much boils down to "Divine characters must be Unaligned or the alignment of their patron god" — a Chaotic Evil Paladin is a perfectly valid Player Character.
This is mainly due to the way the 4th edition percieves Paladins. Compared to the earlier versions the Paladin is no longer a symbol of hope and justice, but more of a chosen champion of his deity. He can still be a Knight in Shining Armor if he chooses to, but all other gods get their own champions, just like Blackguards in 3.5.
invoked As part of 4th edition, the traditional 9 step axis has been removed. "Good" is functionally anywhere between Neutral Good and Chaotic Good — Lawful Good remains distinct only because it has a very strict definition of "what is good" built in. Similarly, "Evil" mingles elements of Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil and even some elements of Chaotic Evil — the Points of Light version of Chaotic Evil is basically "totally self-destructive and/or psychotic evil"; there's a reason it's reserved for Omnicidal Maniac type monsters such as demons. Finally, the "Unaligned" alignment strictly means that a creature is indifferent to the concept of alignment, simply pursuing life without expressly heroic or villainous intentions. In practice, it tends to come off as either Lawful Neutral, True Neutral or Chaotic Neutral. Or anywhere in between.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Averted. Nothing can be trusted by virtue of its nature or appearance in Points of Light. Metallic Dragons can be evil, elves can be slave traders, orcs can be noble savages, a diabolist might be a staunch defender of the innocent, an eldritch monster from beyond the stars might be granting powers to help avert The End of the World as We Know It ... you have very little way of knowing.
Combat Pragmatist: Trickster Rogues and Brawling Fighters. While every encounter is potentially lethal by design, most people would still consider eye gouging a little beyond the pale.
World Half Full: But unlike the metastatic cosmology in 3.5, you can actually make an everlasting difference! Your character can be the king of the new Nerath, if he tries! The Illithid won't have the last laugh! The world itself is actively protecting its inhabitants from the meddling gods, demons, aliens, and whatnot! Also, it's possible to beat the carp out of Asmodeus and restore the domain of his old master!
Dark Is Edgy: The Shadow power source, which seems to be a mixture of old-school necromancy and shadow manipulation. The Warlock, particularly the Dark Pact (which revolves around leeching health from allies to make nastier spells and "dark themed" spells like spattering necrotic-infused acid in a foe's eyes, rains of life-sapping darkness, and flinging daggers of pure poison), leans into this as well.
Dark Is Not Evil: Invoked in a number of ways, mostly by the existence of the Warlock class and the Tiefling race.
Dark World: The Shadowfell and the Feywild, which are the afterlife and the homeplane of The Fair Folk, respectively.
Deal with the Devil: One way of getting to be a Warlock, and what turned the Tieflings into their present state.
Eldritch Abomination: The Far Realm and its children. Primordials are basically this mixed with Elemental Embodiment. The Obyriths were beings so foul and corrupt they consumed their own reality, and then they crystalized the last remaining fragment of it in an effort to break through into a new reality and corrupt it — this was the Shard of Evil.
And the stars - all of them - are Eldritch Abominations who send their avatars to The World to wreak havoc because they hate life. All life.
Enemy Civil War: The Blood War is referenced, but is stated to have currently ground down into one of its "cold war" stages, when both the devils of Baator and the demons of the Abyss try to rebuild their strength and seek out weaknesses for the next attack. The cause is now over the Shard of Evil instead of the original philosophical battle (which was basically a mashup of Evil Versus Evil and Order Versus Chaos) — specifically, Asmodeus wants to take more of the Shard of Evil from the Abyss (the single small piece he managed to steal, which was formed into his Ruby Rod, gave him the power to kill He Who Was and steal his godhood), while the demons are furious that somebody would dare touch the Shard and want the Ruby Rod back.
It still spun off of the great war of Law vs Chaos that was originally caused by the Shard of Evil, itself. That was set the stage for Asmodeus to steal the piece of the Shard to begin with.
Evil Versus Evil: This is the primary reason the tiny forces of good haven't been wiped out by the vast forces of evil — they're normally too busy fighting each other. For instance, the Githyanki are pirates of the really nasty sort, but are often kept occupied slaughtering mind flayers who once enslaved them, and Bane and Gruumsh have been locked in an epic war for thousands of years over the title of God of War.
Also, if you look at it right, an example of Order Versus Chaos; Bane is the soldierly, disciplined, lawful side of war, while Gruumsh is the barbaric, frenzied, chaotic side of war. YMMV, as ever.
The good and evil gods teamed up to fight the primordials who at best were unaligned and at worst on par with demon lords in psychosis. There were cases of evil on evil battles like Torog vs Gargash.
Expansion Pack World: Sort of. Because of the universal ruleset of 4th edition, Dungeonmasters and other world-builders are actively encouraged to take elements from the 4e versions of other settings.
Eberron gives us the Changeling, Kalashtar and Warforged races and the Artificer class.
Dark Sun gives the Mul and Thri-Kreen races, and the new character mechanic of themes.
All settings also offer up feats, paragon paths and epic destinies, all of which are freely plunderable.
The Fair Folk: The Feywild is full of them, and the two weakest (and most understandable) forms of them, the Eladrin and the Gnome, are player races.
Lets make that five now, Pixie, Hamadryad and Satyr have joined the ranks of playable races.
Six; Hengeyokai are also Fey.
Flash Step: Invoked all over the place. Eladrin and Shadar-Kai have the ability to do a short-ranged teleport as a racial power, the Warlock gets a number of teleport powers, there are several Martial powers that revolve around "shift several squares, either before or after delivering a good hit with your weapon)... most built in to the Aegis of Assault Swordmage, whose class feature is the ability to teleport from wherever they are on the battlefield to slash at a foe who is stupid enough to attack a target that isn't the Swordmage.
Harrier Battleminds in particular gear themselves towards teleporting all over the place to engage as many enemies as possible.
Full-Contact Magic: The Swordmage and a melee-focused Bard both specialize in using magic up close, mainly by channelling it into their weapon. The Artificer kind of invokes this by lacing spells onto their allies so that when they hit a foe, or get hit by them, they do something extra nasty.
Also, Hexblades, a kind of Warlock whose magic takes the form of a sword. Most of their powered involve either channeling spell powers through said sword, or else involves making other pieces of equipment out of magic, such as shields or armor.
Gaia's Vengeance: The Primal Spirits are the living embodiments of everything from the lifeforce of the world to specific locations, and they are of a comparable power as the Gods and the Primordials. In the Dawn War, they basically operated as type 1 ("Gaia's Vengeance Proper"), but nowadays they retrict themselves to type 3 ("Gaia's Avenger"), the Primal power source.
Genius Bruiser: The Warlord class, by definition. They wear heavy armor and typically use heavy weapons, but they're also supposed to be excellent tacticians, and Intelligence is recommended as their third or second-highest stat.
Glass Cannon: The Striker role. Strikers have low health, poor Fortitude defense (except for the Barbarian, who gets low Reflex instead), and generally a rather shoddy armor class (due to needing to be mobile), but their speciality is dishing out massive amounts of damage in one strike.
Controllers share this trope, as they're often Squishy Wizards (though not as squishy as those of previous editions).
God Is Evil: Even deities that aren't Evil or Chaotic Evil can still be morally ambiguous. Pelor (Good-aligned god of the Sun) is hiding several large fragments of the Living Gate, which is being sought out by its "children" the Shardminds and could be used to block out all incursions from the Far Realm, for example...
On a similar nature, but lesser power, Angels are described as being functionally embodiments of the "Indifferent" interpretation of Unaligned. They serve all of the gods, from Lawful Good to Chaotic Evil, and they only care that they serve their current patron to the best of their capabilities. In fact, as they literally get traded between the various gods, they actually take pride in having as little personality as possible, so they can more smoothly transition from, say, serving Pelor (God of the sun and hope) to Asmodeus (God of treachery and devils) — or vice versa.
An Ice Person: Sorcerers, Wizards, Swordmages, Warlocks, and Wardens all excel at playing this character. For a literal ice person, Eladrin have a bloodline called "Winterkin" that is basically what happens when you mix this with The Fair Folk, complete with the Bralani Wintersoul paragon path. And any Fey can also take the Winter Sovereign.
Jack Of All Trades: Humans. Flexibility and an ability to be good (if not great) at just about everything is their default fluff, and supported by their racial features (+ 2 to only one ability modifier, but they can choose which, an extra at-will power at first level, etc).
The Bard is strictly defined as a Leader role, but can focus on healing powers, disabling powers, powers that work just by magic, powers that are stacked onto hitting someone in the face with a melee weapon, powers that are stacked onto shooting someone in the face with a bow, or choose between all of these powers, and they can multiclass into as many different classes as they want! (For the big deal behind the last part: all other classes can, officially, only multiclass once - the closest you can get with them to the old "Fighter-Mage-Thief" of 2nd edition is by Hybrid Classing and then Multiclassing.)
Light Is Not Good: The Radiant keyword literally embodies this. Often equated to the Positive Energy of the previous edition, mainly because it's a mainstay of the Divine classes, it's described as having no moral connotations at all — it's merely pure, brilliant, flesh-searing light. That means that the Chaotic Evil Paladin of Gruumsh and the Lawful Good Paladin of Bahamut both use weapons that glow with pure light of divine origin. The rulebooks note that this may actually make Divine-based villains more disturbing, and offers (somewhat half-heartedly) the idea of trading the Radiant keyword for the Necrotic (life-sapping darkness) keyword in such a situation. Radiant damage is also the mainstay of the Star Pact Warlock... that is, the guy who made a Deal with the Devil to Eldritch Abominations that watch the world from among the stars.
Magic Knight: The Swordmage is the most triumphant example — this trope is basically its fundamental building block.
Make Me Wanna Shout: The Thunderborn Barbarian's whole gimmic is that their battlecries are so impressive, spirits of thunder start following them around so they can scream in unison. By the highest levels, a Thunderborn can shatter steel with a good holler. Other classes get some thunder (the damage associated with this keyword) moves, but only the Bard's Voice of Thunder paragon path approaches the Thunderborn Barbarian's proficiency.
The Medic: The Leader role is basically this, as their primary goal is healing injuries and boosting allies, though they're also almost as good at Defenders at taking and dishing out damage.
One True Faith: A notable aversion, not just in the obvious sense of having different gods, but schisms and disagreements over the correct interpretation of holy writ are common even for the good gods' worshipers.
Omnicidal Maniac: Tharizdun, driven out of his mind by the Shard of Evil, seeks to annihilate all of reality. The demons are Elemental Embodiments of Corruption and Destruction, and thusly have the same goal. The Slaad wish to bring about the truest form of chaos by causing reality itself to break down and fall apart. All of these "people" are considered exemplars of Chaotic Evil.
Our Elves Are Better: Kind of played straight with the Eladrin, who have typical "fey" traits like longevity, teleportation and affinity for magic. However, they are the Feywild's equivalent of human beings, they lost something like two thirds of their people to the Mortal World and the Underdark (and the third that went to the latter is still fighting against them) during the war against Lolth, and they're under seige by an underground empire of psychotic fey giants with powerful black magic. Pretty much averted with ordinary Elves; they've actually weakened into their present state due to generations of being stranded in the Mortal World.
Physical God: The gods themselves, of course. Also any hero in the epic (levels 21 to 30) tier — case in point, gods originally came with the quality in their statistic blocks that they couldn't even be damaged by a character who wasn't at least 21st level.
Pyro Maniac: A Fire-orientated Dragon Magic Sorcerer and (potentially) an Infernal pact Warlock can both be this from the beginning. Any arcanist can pick up the Pyromancer paragon path, and Psions can take the roughly equivalent Firestarter paragon path.
The Red Mage: The Artificer or Bard fit this concept the closest by default, as they are Arcane Leaders and so good at slinging spells from a distance, healing, and clobbering foes with weapons. Some recommend hybrid/multiclassing into Swordmage (if you prefer getting into melee) or Wizard (if you prefer staying at a distance and tossing area effects around) for extra flavor.
Religion is Magic: The basic reasoning behind the Divine power source. The Primal power source is one part Gaia's Avenger to one part this.
Rule of Three: Mentioned in Psionic Power, which establishes that some psionicists feel that the multiverse is comprised of three sets of three planes. The first trinity is the Material World, the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos. The second is the Material World, the Feywild and the Shadowfell. The third trinity are what they call the "phrenic planes", the planes of Thought. In this worldview, the Plane of Dreams is the phrenic equivalent of the Material World. The Far Realm is believed to be the Plane of Nightmares, and that it meets with a nameless phrenic plane of pure Order to form the Plane of Dreams. This nameless plane is also a shoutout to the Modrons of Planescape.
Note that the Modrons have just recently gotten offical material for D&D by way of a Dragon downloadable article.
Screw You, Elves!: Eladrin and Elves alike tend to disdain Dusk Elves (Dragon Magazine 382), who are the descendents of eladrin that, during the war between Corellon and Lolth that created the drow, declared "not my problem" and ran away. Corellon, technically the god of all elven races, vowed vengeance for their cowardice, and if it wasn't for the fact the only remaining elven goddess, Sehanine, took pity on them for basically following her tenets to the core and shielded them with divine illusions, their own people would have wiped them out.
Shock and Awe: Another trusty damage type, but for classes that truly live up to it... Storm magic Sorcerers and their paragon paths, of course. Warlocks (Fey pact ones, strangely) also have a paragon path (the Storm Scourge) that does this, as do Druids (Storm Speaker). Swordmages have almost as many Lightning powers as Sorcerers do, as well.
Silicon-Based Life: The Shardminds are raw psychic essence manipulating a body of pure crystal. They are Living Constructs and their racial power is to break up into a swirling storm of shards, and then pull themselves together somewhere else.
Speak of the Devil: The standard D&D rules on this apply, but in an interesting reversal, Asmodeus feared this would happen if anyone spoke the name of the god he overthrew even once, so he erased it from history, leaving the god to be known only as He Who Was.
Stone Wall: The Defender role's job is to be the first in the line of battle and draw enemies into concentrating on attacking them and not the squishier members of the party. Unlike most Stone Walls, though, Defenders aren't too shabby about dishing out pain themselves.
And they have to be! A defender consists of basically two parts: his defenses (armor, defenses, hit points, regeneration abilities and so on) and his "stickyness". The stickyness considers how likely enemies are to actually focus on the defender, so he has to be able to dish out the pain so that the enemy is punished for ignoring him. In an ideal situation this is the equivalent of a lose-lose situation for the attacker - either they have to try and hit the high AC of the defender instead of the squishier rogue or they can try a swing at the rogue and risk allowing the defender a free hit.
Top God: Bane used to be this; during the Dawn War he was in charge of the god's efforts against the Primordials. He had assumed that once the war was over, they'd let him stay in charge. He was wrong, and has been plotting on how to regain his position ever since.
Tranquil Fury: The "Calm Fury" barbarian paragon path is based completely around this.
Vestigial Empire: Let's see, the Human empire of Nerath was destroyed due to a massive war against gnolls and demons about 100 years ago, the Tiefling empire of Bael Turath was corrupted by pacts with Asmodeus and then fell into mutual destruction with Arkhosia, the dragon-ruled empire of the Dragonborn...
Volcanic Veins: Not veins specifically, but the szuldar of the Genasi fit the same purose. They are natural (to the point they're considered as much a part of a genasi's persona as their fingerprints, or perhaps even more so) patterns of glowing light on a genasi's skin, with the precise color dependent on the Elemental Soul that they are manifesting. Earthsouls have gold, Firesouls have fiery orange, Stormsouls have silver, Watersouls have bright blue, Windsouls have light blue, Causticsouls have green-black, Cindersouls have dim fiery orange, Plaguesouls have black, and Voidsouls have an utter blackness that is more a total lack of color.
The School of Unmatched Excellence, an organization of psionics and Bare Fisted Monks who want to Take Over the World because they honestly think that the discipline they favor to control their powers makes their classes better rulers. They started as a good-aligned group, but their doctrine (unsurprisingly) drew so many dirtbags that their predominant alignment is the Noble Demon kind of Evil now.
Bane, God of Conquest, thinks that military discipline and Spartan culture (he even looks a bit like King Leodinas) is needed to survive in an admittedly Crapsack World filled with monsters.
Most of the Metallic Dragons are like this now.
The planar pirates known as the quom were originally healers, until their Genius Loci goddess became an unintended casualty of the Dawn War. They now desire to collect every piece of her so they can put her back together and resurrect her. Since said pieces are often components in magic items, and they tend to lodge in organic tissue...
Warrior Monk: Basically, the whole Divine power source, but the Cleric, Paladin and newcomer the Avenger most accurately fit this.
Worthy Opponent: Asmodeus and Bane are an Evil Versus Evil version of this trope; as the embodiments of Lawful Evil in this setting, they have a grudging respect for each other, and will occasionally assist one another. However, they absolutely hate one another, and it's implied they hate each other specifically because they see so much of themselves in the other.
The Worm that Walks: The Larva Mage, most literally; an evil mage who possesses a swarm of maggots/flesh-eating worms and uses them to replace their dead body. Less literally, the Lamia (a gestalt fey entity made of flesh-eating scarabs that catches humanoids and eats them alive from the inside out so it can wear their skin as a disguise), the Larva Assassin (a Psycho for Hire whose soul clings to life in a swarm of hornets and centipedes), Larva Sniper (Cold Sniper made of wasps) and Larva Warmaster (General Ripper, Colonel Kilgore or Blood Knight who uses carnivorous beetles for its body).
Bonus points for the Larval Undead being creations and servants of the actual Worm That Walks, Kyuss.
Wrestler in All of Us: Brawling Fighters are essentially pro wrestlers, specializing in grabs, throws, locks, etc., with their free hand. It's only going to take one RKO...