Prophesied by dragons . . . tempered by magic . . . forged in war. . .
You might remember the Fantasy Setting Search that Wizards of the Coast conducted back in 2002. It was an open call for one-page submissions of ideas, one of which would ultimately become the next official Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting. Over 11,000 proposals (including dozens from right inside the Wizards offices) flooded in from around the world and filled an entire cubicle's worth of mail bins. Our stunned search committee spent hours and hours on end reading each of the submissions, eventually narrowing the field to 11 proposals. The authors of those 11 entries then created 10-page overviews of their worlds. From there, the three most intriguing campaign settings were developed into 100-page "story bibles." After long and deliberate consideration, the final selection was made: Eberron, Keith Baker's cinematic world of pulp/noir action, adventure, and intrigue.
This coming July, you'll be able to pick up and start exploring the Eberron Campaign Setting. Every month until then, we'll offer up material to help you get an even better idea of what you'll encounter when you do.
I remember spending much time working on my own submission for the Fantasy Setting Search, and I was curious about what in Keith's proposal had caught the eye of the judging committee. So, when I sat down to start these preview articles, I emailed Keith and asked him how he answered the first question on the Fantasy Setting Search: "Who are the heroes?" This is what he sent me:
You Got Your D&D in My Eberron . . .
Refer to Thing You Need to Know #1: "If it's in D&D, it's in Eberron." Kinda like an RPG version of the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercial, the Eberron Campaign Setting takes the great taste of Dungeons & Dragons and combines it with the exciting flavor of Eberron.
Everything about the Dungeons & Dragons game that you love has a place in the Eberron Campaign Setting. That's because one of the prime mandates about the new campaign world was that it needed to support everything in the three core rulebooks and provide a foundation upon which any supplement could rest. So, all the stuff you're used to playing, fighting, exploring, discovering, creating, and so on is the same stuff you'll be having fun with when you play a campaign set in Eberron. Most of the elements in your existing campaigns can be ported directly over -- a lot of the changes you'll find in the Eberron Campaign Setting are, essentially, cosmetic changes that give the traditional D&D material a particular Eberronian look, feel, or flavor. Check it out:
Races: All the standard player character races from the Player's Handbook have a place in Eberron (no mechanics changes, though each one has its own particular Eberron-flavored twist.) There are plenty of places in Eberron from which monstrous characters (from your copy of Savage Species)
could hail -- and fit right in. Eberron also introduces four entirely new character races: changelings, the kalashtar, shifters, and warforged. To find out more about the character races in the Eberron Campaign Setting, keep an eye out for Dragon Magazineissues #317 and #318.
Classes: Same thing goes here. From barbarians to wizards, every one of the standard character classes is represented in the Eberron Campaign Setting. If one of the new classes from the Miniatures Handbook has caught your fancy, you'll easily find a way to work that character into the recently war-torn world. The Eberron Campaign Setting also introduces a new character class -- the artificer (which you can take a look at in Dragon Magazine#316).
Feats: One last time, because you've probably got the idea by now: Any of the feats you'll find in any of the books, from the Player's Handbook to Tome and Blood and so on (including stuff from the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting,Player's Guide to Faerûn, or even Oriental Adventures), are up for grabs in Eberron. The Eberron Campaign Setting also offers up a pile of new feats, including feats that allow you to take advantage of your character's action points, shifter heritage, warforged nature, and more.
Prestige Classes: The prestige classes you'll find in the Eberron Campaign Setting are a lot like any of the other prestige classes you've encountered in your character-building career. But, unlike many of them, the prestige classes you'll find in the Eberron Campaign Setting have a particular place in the setting. When members of the development/design team started refining the contents of the book, they actually cut the number of prestige classes they were working on in half. They did that so they could focus on creating prestige classes that were truly woven into the fabric of the world. Next month, you'll get a look at one of the setting's prestige classes: the exorcist of the Silver Flame.
Magic: The world of Eberron is all about magic. You probably can't find enough spells in all of your D&D books to adequately fill the libraries of magic your characters might discover in the nation of Zil'argo alone. Spellcasting is so ubiquitous in the Eberron Campaign Setting, there are even working-class arcane spellcasters known as magewrights -- the folks who enchant the continual flame lamps that light the streets of the cities and create other items of magical convenience. Magic is everywhere and in just about anything you can find in the Eberron Campaign Setting. (That's not to say that every rock you trip over has got a +1 bonus, though your characters will certainly stumble across the magically infused crystals known as dragonshards.)
Psionics: While psionics have always been an optional part of any D&D game -- something you could choose to work into your game or not, the Eberron Campaign Setting provides a place for psionic characters, monsters, and so on to call home. The vast kingdom of Riedra and a region of Sarlona called Adar are prime real estate for users of psionics. (Though it's not uncommon to encounter psions, psionic warriors, soulknives, and other psionic characters in the cities of Khorvaire.) The kalashtar, a race you'll discover in the Eberron Campaign Setting, are gifted with natural psionic abilities that make psion their favored class. You can find a little more information about the kalashtar in Dragon Magazine #317, and can get a closer look at them later in this "Gearing Up for Eberron" series.
Monsters: If you flip through your Monster Manual and stop on any page, you'll be looking at a critter that has a lair, nest, den, or home somewhere in Eberron. The image of dinosaur-riding halflings you may have seen is just one example of taking creatures that already exist in the D&D world and finding a place for them to live in the Eberron Campaign Setting. (Here's the deal with the dinosaurs: There has never been an ice age on Eberron, so dinosaurs never had a good reason to die off -- they just kept adapting to the world around them. Some species even evolved to a point at which they became domesticated mounts for nomadic halflings.) Of course, Eberron has its own share of indigenous creatures. And in a world infused with magic, you almost can't imagine the things you will encounter. Just so you don't have to imagine, we'll be showing you a few of the monsters of the Eberron Campaign Setting in a few months.
Of course, in much the same way that all the traditional D&D elements have their place in the world of Eberron, you can also pull elements out of the Eberron Campaign Setting to incorporate in your own D&D world.
In regards to this question in particular: The setting changed a lot from the one-pager to the final form, so the one-pager may not make sense. Here's the answer from the one-pager and the 100-pager.
From the one-pager:
Who are the heroes?
Heroes can assume all sorts of roles. The hard-drinking dwarven detective who has a tendency to fall for the wrong dame. The sorcerer who hides her face behind a colorful mask, using her mystical powers to prey on superstitious criminals. The noble paladin determined to clean up the corruption in the city guard. The barbarian jungle girl raised by apes. The elven archaeologist determined to find the ancient artifacts of long-forgotten civilizations. The archetypes are those of the pulps, but that detective still has his battleaxe strapped to his back, even if he does carry a rod (and I do mean a rod!).
From the 100-pager:
"Daerhyn, Daerhyn -- why is this such a problem? We've worked together before. Weren't you happy with the gold you received for retrieving the Eye of Dol Azur?"
"The gold was fine. The problem was the horde of spider-beasts. So before I get my team into another bloody mess like that, I want to know what you aren't telling me."
"Well, now you mention it, there might be a problem with the Order of the Emerald Claw . . ."
The heroes are the heart of any roleplaying game. Who are the player characters, and what defines them as heroes? What do they do, and why do they work together? All too many games leave these questions entirely in the hands of the Dungeon Master, which can result in a world where the players feel unimportant or where groups have no reason to be together beyond "It's a game, so you need to work together."
Eberron offers a variety of answers to these questions. This leaves room for the gamemaster to pick the answers that are best suited to his group and their playstyle. But regardless of these decisions, player characters will have a unique place in the world and a reason to adventure.
-- Keith Baker
Here's a good-sized chunk from the introduction section of the Eberron Campaign Setting that deals with what might be the most important aspect of the new world, the thing that sets it apart from any of the other D&D worlds we've ever explored: the tone and attitude of the setting:
The features that most set Eberron apart are its tone and attitude. The setting combines traditional medieval fantasy with pulp action and dark adventure. Make no mistake -- the world of Eberron proudly takes its place among the D&D worlds that have come before, with a cinematic flair and an eye toward the best action-adventure movies ever filmed. The campaign's story elements were designed with this in mind, and we also built it into the game mechanics with the introduction of action points into the D&D game.
The world of Eberron has a rich history built on heroic deeds, evolving magic, and the wounds of a long, devastating war. In the wake of this Last War, action, adventure, good, evil, and a thousand shades of gray paint the landscape in broad, powerful strokes, and ancient mysteries await discovery so that they too can influence the world and its people.
Magic is built into the very fabric of the setting. It pervades and influences everyday life. It provides certain comforts and conveniences unknown either in the modern world or any other world of medieval fantasy. Great cities where castles scrape the sky can be found throughout the continent of Khorvaire, and a thriving aristocracy of merchant families controls much of the world's economy thanks to the edge given them by the mysterious and rare dragonmarks.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, all classes and races. They travel the world, battling villains and recovering fabulous treasure, dealing with over-the-top action, harrowing challenges, cliffhanger situations, narrow escapes, and ominous mysteries that are as likely to shed light on centuries of secrets as they are to threaten the safety of the current day.
The tone provides a portion of what sets this campaign apart from other D&D worlds, and this tone was first and foremost in mind as we built the complex tapestry that is the Eberron campaign setting. Even so, it is a "same but different" approach that allows us to make elements of the new campaign attractive to all D&D players -- you can pick up Eberron products and drop large pieces of them into whatever D&D campaign you happen to be playing with minimal, if any, adjustments.
I know that tone and attitude are important aspects of the setting because they're listed as #2 on the following excerpt. It's a section of the introduction that gives you a quick run-down of the stuff you'll want to have in mind as you start running or playing in any campaign set in Eberron. If you're curious about what else you should get in your head, take a look:
(Five of the) 10 Things You Need to Know
Every Dungeon Master and player needs to know and remember these things about the world of Eberron:
1. If it exists in D&D, then it has a place in Eberron. A monster or spell or magic item from the core rulebooks might feature a twist or two to account for Eberron's tone and attitude, but otherwise everything in the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual has a place somewhere in Eberron.
2. Tone and attitude. The campaign combines traditional medieval D&D fantasy with swashbuckling action and dark adventure. Alignments are relative gauges of a character or creature's viewpoint, and not absolute barometers of affiliation and action; nothing is exactly as it seems. Alignments are blurred so that it's possible to encounter an evil silver dragon or a good vampire, for example. Traditionally good-aligned creatures may still wind up opposed to the heroes, while well-known agents of evil might provide assistance when it's least expected. To help capture the cinematic nature of the swordplay and spellcasting, we've added action points to the rules mix. This spendable, limited resource allows players to alter the outcome of dramatic situations and have their characters accomplish the impossible.
3. A world of magic. The setting supposes a world that has developed not through the advances of science, but by the mastery of arcane magic. This allows for certain conveniences that were never imagined in other medieval timeframes. Through the binding and harnessing of elemental creatures, airships and land rails become possible. By creating a working class of minor mages, spells provide energy and other necessities in towns and cities. And advances in magic item creation have led to everything from farming implements to sentient, free-willed constructs.
4. A world of adventure. From the steaming jungles of Argonnessen to the colossal ruins of Xen'drik, from the towering keeps of Sharn to the blasted hills and valleys of the Demon Wastes, Eberron is a world of action and adventure. Adventures can and should draw heroes from one exotic location to another, across nations, continents, and the entire world. The quest for the Mirror of the Seventh Moon may take the heroes from a hidden desert shrine to a ruined castle in the Shadow Marches and finally to a dungeon deep below the Library of Korranberg. Through the use of magical transportation, heroes can reach a wider range of environments over the course of an adventure, and thus deal with a diverse assortment of monsters and challenges.
5. The Last War has ended -- sort of. The Last War, which plunged the continent of Khorvaire into civil war more than a century ago, ended with the signing of the Treaty of Thronehold and the establishment of twelve recognized nations occupying what was once the kingdom of Galifar. The peace has held for about a year, at least overtly. The conflicts, the anger, and the pain of the long war remain, however, and the new nations vie for political and economical supremacy as they prepare for the inevitable next war that will eventually break out on the continent.
Next month, you'll get a glimpse at the Exorcist of the Silver Flame, a prestige class affiliated with the Church of the Silver Flame -- just one of the organizations that are likely to play an important role in any campaign that takes place in Eberron.
Dragon Magazine #315
For more insight into the world of Eberron, check out Dragon Magazine for a new six-part monthly series: "Countdown to the Eberron Campaign Setting."
Issue #315 (that's the January issue, which goes on sale this month), starts off the series by offering more insight into the tone and attitude of the new D&D world, along with a little of Eberron's most recent history.
About the Author
Mat Smith is a copywriter who's been playing roleplaying games for a disturbing number of years, and now gets to spend an astonishing amount of time thinking about clever ways to get more people to do the same.