- Most of the world is monster-infested wilderness.
- Civilized folk live in small, isolated villages.
- Word is slow to get around.
- There are few in authority to deal with trouble.
- Adventurers are aberrant.
- Intentionally incomplete; homebrew expected.
The Nentir Vale or Points of Light (after the villages - points of light, dotted through the wilderness) is the default (or implied) setting for 4th Edition. Products set in the Nentir Vale don't contain any special Nentir Vale branding or trade dress, but 4th Edition products are generally assumed to be set in the Nentir Vale unless otherwise specified in the product. The Conquest of Nerath Board Game also is set in the same world as the Nentir Vale, and Nerathi Legends articles that ran in Dragon 398-406 expand substantially on the world in which the Vale is located. In addition, The Chaos Scar adventures published in Dungeon magazine are also part of this setting, since the Chaos Scar is located in the Nentir Vale.
The Points of Light setting is usually set in Nerath, one of the two known continents on the Points of Light World. The Nentir Vale is a northern borderland region of Nerath. The vale is now mostly empty, with a handful of living villages and towns scattered over this wide area. Abandoned farmsteads, ruined manors, and broken keeps litter the countryside. It is a frontier area with sparse population and lots of monstrous threats. A few difficult and dangerous roads tenuously link neighboring cities together, but if someone strays from them they will quickly find themselves immersed in goblin-infested forests, haunted barrowfields, desolate hills and marshes, and monster-hunted badlands. There is very little in the way of authority to deal with raiders and marauders, outbreaks of demon worship, rampaging monsters, deadly hauntings, or similar local problems. Adventurers are aberrant. Commoners view them as brave at best, and insane at worst. The setting is intentionally incomplete, allowing the gaps to be filled by imported or homebrew content.