The nucleus is a space with (most often) solely friendly NPCs. Many of them will have quests for the player, be involved with quests, or sell items. It is separated from other level structures, and can either stand alone or be located in or near a superstructure. Most cities have a nucleus, and most uncharted areas have a nucleus near or in them. The nucleus can have connections to several parts of the level, sometimes through use of teleporters.

The nucleus provides a place for the player to relax and focus on things like item, quest, and stat management. It makes a good stopping and starting point for gameplay, as entering a nucleus often associated with quest completion and access to new quests.

Variables and Affordances

  • NPCs' purpose (None, Quest, Merchant, or Both). A nucleus of only quest NPCs means the player has to visit another nucleus to unload the extra items they have. A nucleus of only merchants means the player has no other reason to visit besides item buying or selling.


  • Dragon Age: Origins (Denerim: Market District). This is an example of a nucleus in a city. Though there are other places to go in the city, the Market District has the most quest givers and merchants.
  • Dragon Age: Origins (Brecilian Forest: Dalish Elf Camp). This is an example of a nucleus before an uncharted area. It gives quests for the player to complete in the rest of the forest.
  • Mass Effect 2 (Omega: Main Area). The main area of Omega contains the quest NPCs and merchants, while linking to places like Quarantine and Archangel's Hideout, where the quests take place.
  • Fallout 3 (Megaton). Megaton is a very large nucleus, but not quite a city. It remains walled off from combat, and while there are a few quests resolved inside Megaton, the player does not spend enough time questing in the nucleus to call it a city.

In Worked Examples

Quest-Level Relationships

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