The first hub area – a place without combat, where players can meet up, sell off their loot, and stash their belongings – in Path of Exiles is a place called Lioneye’s Watch, the ruins of a fortress where a man called Lioneye commanded a legion of the Empire to defend the Outer Empire and the coastland. He was destroyed by the Karui when they invaded, and the fortress fell into ruin over the passing years.
When Oriath started casting exiles onto the shores of Wraeclast, many of them found the ruins of the old fortress to be the safest and most defensible place against the horrors of the wild lands. It didn’t take long before a rough society formed, with a few key individuals holding things together against the odds. Some have come and gone; others still linger, determined to make the best of the fate they’ve been given.
Lioneye’s Watch is a decrepit ruin patched up with driftwood and salvaged debris, safe enough against the monsters that lurk along the shores but no match for anything stronger. Only one person in the place isn’t either an exile or stark mad – Nessa, a woman who survived a shipwreck. She looks after the others here with an almost motherly air, doing what she can to tend to the sick and injured and keeps spirits up. The others will do almost anything to keep her safe. The others also look up to Tarkleigh, a man who seems to know a little of all trades – including fighting and making weapons. The last notable soul is Bestel, the maddest madman in Lioneye’s Watch, rescued from a shipwreck and prone to random poetry. Where the others revere Nessa and admire Tarkleigh, most of them hold a grudging pity for Bestel – even when the madman’s rambling sometimes proves prophetic.
The Aspects on the area speak to the desperate nature of this supposed safe haven. The first is A Filthy Cesspit of Exiles – the fort could do with repairs well beyond anything the new inhabitants can hope to accomplish, with the dangers that lurk on the coastline, and so it remains cold, unpleasant, and filthy on the good days, riddled with disease and despair. Still, exiles tend to be ingenious, and everyone here has the cleverness of the desperate and the damned; players can tap the Aspect if they need a little help from a friendly local, in some form or another, while the GM can compel it to make things harder by having the living dead break a flimsy barricade, threatening the players with diseases, or even just having the cleverness of the locals turn against them in a moment of need.
The fort is also Built From The Ruins Of Empire – even if the walls are shot, the foundation remains, and the debris that shores up much of it is scavenged from other ruined areas. The stonework of the old Empire is still strong, even if the mortar has long since given way, and anyone with a need for solid stone or looking for a hidden secret from the past could do worse than to search in the rubble to see what they can turn up. Of course, where there’s hidden treasure, there may well be hidden threats, and it would certainly be within the GM’s purview to invoke such threats.
Finally, the ruins are a source of Safety In Numbers, which works to the advantage of players in ensuring they have a safe place to fall back on when threats prove too much for them. Extra hands, even if they’re only armed with the rude patchwork of scraps and wreckage that Tarkleigh can assemble, are the biggest advantage the place has in keeping the ruins safe. Of course, the same safety in numbers means that everyone is loathe to leave the safety of the fort, and they’ll often try to coax others into staying behind unless the situation gets too desperate and it starts to look like cannibalism might be in the near future.
Over time, if the players remain here long enough, these Aspects can be adjusted; players willing to give up a milestone can redefine one of the existing Aspects, or add an additional one to add a new theme. Undertaking missions for the other inhabitants, scavenging better materials, and thinning out the threats to the fort can improve the mood, allow the locals to clean things up, and reduce the pressure that makes it so easy for disease to spread. Given enough effort, the old fort might even be rebuilt, gaining an Aspect like Hope Of The Exiled in recognition of what the players accomplish.
Of course, to do that, both Hillock and the siren Merveil would need properly dealt with – and there are plenty of dangers for anyone seeking to deal with the latter threat.