This installment of Keith Baker's new Eberron Expanded column focuses on adapting material from Heroes of Battle for use in an Eberron campaign.
Overview: Armed Conflict in Eberron
A Valenar warband crests the hill. A shiver runs through your comrades-at-arms when they recognize the banner of Caelys Drynn, the cavalry commander who led the charge at the Redoak Bridge. The sound of singing drifts down the slope as the enemy troops, who obviously adore their leader, begin to sing the praises of Drynn and his ancestors. Then a flight of arrows fills the air, and the elves begin the charge.
As the rain of missiles fills the sky, you feel the touch of magic, and the shafts scatter and split. Your commander, Jila ir'Catar, calls on the war wizards to hold their ground. Jila has never lost a battle, and her reputation gives you confidence. Now the first wave of cavalry draws near, and you prepare to shield the nearest wizard with your body if need be. Right now, his magic is worth far more than your steel.
Heroes of Battle introduces a variety of optional rules systems that can help you bring war stories such as the one above to a fantasy world. Using these guidelines, a commander can hone his talents to perfect a certain style of combat, and small military units -- such as parties of adventurers -- can learn special techniques that provide invaluable benefits in battle. In addition, the book contains rules for siege engines, morale, aerial bombardment, and more. All in all, the various systems described in Heroes of Battle help to differentiate the forces of various nations and add color to combat.
The narration above describes the moment when the great cavalry commander Caelys Drynn (N male elf fighter 6/legendary leader 4) joins battle with the troops of Jila ir'Catar of Aundair (LN female human wizard 5/war weaver 5). Drynn's deeds are an inspiration to his troops, and his image is further bolstered by his elf commander aura (Heroes of Battle, page 76) and his levels in the legendary leader prestige class (Heroes of Battle, page 108). Drynn also has the Mounted Mobility feat (Heroes of Battle, page 98) and has trained his personal warband in the heavy cavalry teamwork technique (Heroes of Battle, page 117). These advantages have allowed him to overrun many foes.
But the Valenar commander may have met his match in Jila ir'Catar. Her war weaving ability lets her spread her spells across multiple units, her spellslinging commander aura enhances the firepower of her wizards, and her spellcaster guardian teamwork benefit helps her soldiers shield the weaker wizards. Jila may not be a legendary leader, but her Inspirational Leadership feat helps her troops maintain their morale in the face of danger.
Caelys Drynn and Jila ir'Catar are just two examples of characters that can be created using the new rules in Heroes of Battle. Little adaptation is required to use this book in an Eberron campaign, since using the material presented is largely a matter of common sense. A Karrn captain is more likely to be a necromantic commander than a deathslayer commander, and a House Vadalis beast squad might have an animal commander or a feral commander.
In this article and the next one, we will examine ways to adapt specific material from Heroes of Battle to the Eberron Campaign Setting. We'll also consider some possible scenarios for military campaigns in the world of Eberron.
Arcane magic has been part of daily life in Khorvaire for many an age. Thus, it's reasonable to assume that during a century of warfare, the various nations would devise deadly spells and other tools of war. Nearly all the spells and items presented in Heroes of Battle have logical places in Eberron, but you as Dungeon Master must decide whether this magic is available to all characters, or whether its secrets are known only to a few nations. The latter approach provides interesting plot options for espionage-oriented campaigns. For example, perhaps the Arcane Congress of Aundair wants to unlock the secret of the animate legion spell, but the only way to do so is to send spies into the great temple of Atur! Are your PCs up to the task?
Kinds of Magic
The various spellcasting classes all have their own approaches to battle magic, and a different in-game logic may apply to each. The following sections describe how to best utilize the material presented in Heroes of Battle with each kind of magic in an Eberron campaign.
Druids and Rangers
War is an integral part of the history of Eberron's druids. They were in the thick of the fight during the ancient battle between the Gatekeepers and the daelkyr, and in more modern times, they helped the people of western Aundair secede and join the Eldeen Reaches. The Wardens of the Wood may not possess much in the way of siege equipment, but a few highly mobile units with hurtling stone at their disposal could devastate larger massed forces or slow massive siege engines.
Although the Dhakaani goblinoids have begun to experiment with the tradition of wizardry, bards have always formed the backbone of the goblinoid magical tradition. The Valenar elves also commonly incorporate bards into their warbands to inspire troops with tales of their heroic ancestors. Because war is so deeply engrained in these two cultures, both hobgoblin and elf bards would logically have access to the military magic presented in Heroes of Battle. It's up to you as DM to decide whether other cultures can also make use of these spells, or whether a Brelish bard would have to travel with the Valenar to master their drums of war spell.
Clerics and Paladins
Technically, clerics can use any spells on the clerical spell list. For the purpose of campaign flavor, however, you may want to restrict certain spells to particular religions, thus placing them between domain spells and general spells in terms of availability. In this latter arrangement, animate legion and desecrate battlefield might be tied to the Blood of Vol, and spiritual cavalry might be limited to the Valenar, the Talenta halflings (who would use it to create dinosaur riders), or a dedicated priest of Dol Arrah. In like manner, early twilight could be a tool of the Shadow, the Blood of Vol, and the Dragon Below. Limiting the availability of divine battlefield spells in this manner can help to create distinct identities and battle strategies for the different armies. For example, anyone who battles Cults of the Dragon Below can expect enemy clerics to blot out the sun, but the Church of the Silver Flame would instead illuminate the sky so that its troops can continue the battle deep into the night.
Introducing new divine spells into a campaign is always tricky for the DM. After all, you're effectively saying, "Hey! There's this new spell that you've always been able to cast and which would have been useful in last night's game, but you've never bothered to prepare it so far!" To help bolster the thin logic of such situations, consider ruling that these spells are lost techniques that the characters must recover before they can use them. If only the Shulassakar know the secrets of drawing consecrate battlefield and battlefield illumination from the Silver Flame, a cleric who wants to cast these spells must first find a Shulassakar mentor. The same kind of logic applies to introducing bard and druid spells as well.
Wizards and Sorcerers
All the spells on the sorcerer/wizard list in Heroes of Battle are useful in mass combat, and all are logical developments of the Last War. The only question is whether any of them are used only by specific nations. As with limiting divine spells by religion, such an arrangement can lead to interesting adventure possibilities and add color to a campaign. For example, if only the Aundairian wizards have developed shrieking blast, characters can recognize their foe as soon as they hear the screams on the border.
My personal suggestions are to restrict both animate legion and early twilight to Karrnath, and to limit battlemagic perception and shrieking blast to Aundair. After all, arcane magic is a mainstay of the armies of Aundair, and battlemagic perception can help their countermages maintain this strategic advantage. The rest of the spells can be accessible to all arcane spellcasters in the Five Nations.
Leomund's billet and aerial alarm are excellent matches for the portfolios of the Mark of Hospitality and the Mark of Warding, respectively. Each house should certainly have dragonmarked foci that allow its heirs to produce these effects. If you as DM want to take this concept to extremes, you could restrict Leomund's billet to spellcasters who possess the Mark of Hospitality. Though it's not an actual dragonmarked power, a wizard, sorcerer, or bard would need to have the mark in order to cast the spell. Such an arrangement would provide the House of Hospitality with an important battlefield function, and nations would surely pay good gold for a halfling quartermaster who could produce instant shelter for her troops.
The magic items presented in Chapter Six of Heroes of Battle are all well suited to an Eberron campaign and can be used as templates for creating other magic weapons of war. The gnomes of Zilargo were probably the primary producers of alchemist's stone ammunition and elemental rockshot, but House Cannith could have manufactured magic siege engines and sold them to any nation. Disrupting siege engines played a critical role in Thrane's struggle, while the Order of the Emerald Claw provided Karrnath with necromantic siege engines and banners of the unliving. Blast disks were employed by many of the nations, especially Aundair. In fact, many battlefields still contain unexploded blast disks -- a fact that makes the exploration of the past a very dangerous thing. And while House Jorasco healers couldn't be everywhere at once, the house made a tidy sum on the sales of blessed bandages -- an item to which many old soldiers owe their lives.
In any military force, merit is generally recognized through advancement in rank and by the awarding of decorations. This section details the ranks and decorations available in the armies of the Five Nations.
Rank plays an important role in any military campaign. Those used in the armies of the Five Nations are based on the old army of Galifar and are given below in ascending order.
In Karrnath, warlord is also a hereditary title bestowed on the highest-ranking nobles of the land. Those who rise to the top of the military chain receive an additional qualifier. Thus, Karrn General Thauram is also a warlord, but he serves under First Warlord Gruden ir'Erdei, who fills the role of warlord in terms of military rank.
Military decorations vary according to nation, and a complete list would require several pages. High-level decorations are often minor magic items designed to protect the honored hero. For example, Breland's greatest champions are often presented with Handan's shroud, a crimson cloak of resistance +1. Lesser decorations, such as the Black Badge of Shadukar or Cyre's Sword of the Southern Front, may be tied to specific battles or campaigns. In like manner, Karrns placed in command of an undead unit earn the right to wear the Skull of Atur.
Other specific decorations will be detailed in future publications as battles are described in greater detail. However, you as DM should feel free to devise your own rewards for victorious heroes.
About the Author
Keith Baker has been an avid fan of the Dungeons & Dragons game since grade school. His life took a dramatic turn in 2002 when he submitted the World of Eberron to the Wizards of the Coast Fantasy Setting Search. In addition to developing the Eberron Campaign Setting and Shadows of the Last War for Wizards of the Coast, Inc., he has produced material for Atlas Games, Goodman Games, and Green Ronin.