I think the same thing might be applied to the wilderness. Not in the video gamey sense of every valley is like a box canyon with one narrow access to the next, but in the way real world geography often constrains travel.
For example, in a recent post I mentioned liking the idea of starting a campaign in a coastal port city allowing access to distant lands. But after further reflection I think that might be nice to encounter after starting in some backwater valley. Reaching the port city would be a pinch point; a whole new world awaits on the other side.
Here are some ideas for other pinch points:
- the classic mountain pass, really one of the few features that gets used this way
- a cliffside road- I'm thinking of California's Pacific Coast Highway, but more sheer and dangerous to traverse
- magical gates- stone circles, pools, and doorways
- bridges, especially rotting rope bridges across deep ravines
- river fords
- ice bridges
- desert oasis that must be found in order to make it across a large desert
- mountain tunnel
- rivers themselves; making it to one could be like finding an expressway to the unknown
- trade routes and city that are trade hubs
- island chains- close enough to travel one to another to another