Whether it's a search for a lost artifact, unearthing lore in an old tome, or dealing with a goblin uprising, Eberron campaigns do things a little differently. This series helps Eberron players and DMs get the right feel in the setting.
This article looks at how a surge in goblinoid attacks works differently in an Eberron campaign.
A Glorious Past
In a typical campaign, goblinoids are primitive creatures that scratch out a living on the fringes of civilized lands and, from time to time, muster enough warriors to raid frontier farms. Their equipment is generally inferior to that which humans and other allied races carry (though the more martial hobgoblins tend to have better gear), and they have little impact on civilized history other than their infrequent attacks.
In Eberron, by contrast, goblinoids once ruled much of western Khorvaire as the mighty Dhakaan Empire. Though the empire eventually fell, its past existence means two significant things for Eberron's goblinoid tribes, particularly the Dhakaani tribes who clung to the remnants of civilization rather than falling into savagery like their lowland Ghaal'dar kin.
Unlike goblinoids in most campaigns, the Dhakaani goblinoids grow up hearing their duur'kala ("dirge singers," their name for bards) tell tales of their peoples' ancient empire, an empire that was strong before the humans, elves, and dwarves gained power in Khorvaire. These inspirational stories are fuel that the Dhakaani leaders use to stoke the fires of vengeance among their tribes. While goblinoids in other worlds raid for food and loot, Dhakaani goblinoids march to war with some variant of "For the lost empire!" as their battle cry. Zealotry is a stronger motivator than hunger or greed and can make a common soldier face certain death without blinking.
Like all fallen civilizations, the Dhakaani Empire had its share of marvels and advances. Though some of them may seem primitive by modern Eberron standards, ancient items drawing on Eberron or Khyber dragonshards may lie buried in old goblin cities, waiting to be unearthed by a crafty warlord. Because of the war against the daelkyr, the lost goblin empire probably has many weapons made to defeat aberrations (such as the dolgaunt and dolgrim, tools of the daelkyr) and defenses that guard troops against mental attacks.
A Permanent Underclass
Eberron is also unusual because of its population of lower-class goblin slaves in most major cities. Unlike a typical campaign in which goblinoids are creatures that live "far away," an Eberron campaign has goblins literally underfoot. Though the citizens of those cities may ignore or forget about the goblins who tend their gardens, raise their animals, build their homes, and mine their stone, the goblins certainly bear their share of resentment toward their privileged employers. In the hands of a charismatic leader, these worker-goblins can turn into a murderous force; gardening tools, carpenter's hammers, and mining picks are just as deadly as weapons crafted for war when turned against unsuspecting foes, and a goblin rebellion in the heart of a city is more dangerous than an invading horde because the enemy is already within the city without having to fight its way in.
Desperate goblin slaves sometimes turn to guerrilla methods of striking back. If goblins soil the gardens so none but a goblin would eat from them, for example, the city starves while the goblins grow fat. If goblin miners and carpenters won't work, buildings remain unfinished and ships go unrepaired, affecting trade and defense. A goblin uprising doesn't have to be bloody to be an inconvenience or threat. These "passive" forms of resistance are particularly vexing to leaders because they can't be solved by killing a horde of monsters, yet the perplexing questions about the identity and motivations of those behind the uprising remain.
A New Nation
The greatest difference between the goblinoids of a typical D&D campaign and those in an Eberron campaign is that the Eberron goblinoids have a homeland recognized by its neighboring countries as a sovereign nation. Adventurers from Breland can't just head into Darguun and kill any goblinoids they find; doing so is an act of terrorism (or an act of war, depending on the size of the invading group). A band of armored hobgoblins heading north from Rhukaan Draal may be a mercenary group responding to a contract rather than a gang intent on mayhem. If that band later attacks a caravan, is it a lapse in judgment, an order from a criminal employer, or a deliberate attempt by Lhesh Haruuc to start a war? As with the city-goblin rebellion scenario, killing those responsible isn't the end of the problem. Finding the truth requires investigation which may reveal an even larger problem. Of course, there are independent warlords in Darguun, and if some of Haruuc's troops go raiding (with or without his permission), he can brand them as traitors and promise the other signatories of the Treaty of Thronehold that he'll step up his efforts to eliminate these rogues. Such protestations are always best viewed with a measure of skepticism, since they may be no more than political cover for activity that is officially condemned but covertly approved or even encouraged.
About the Author
Sean K Reynolds lives in Encinitas, California, and recently left his job at a video game company. His D&D credits include the Monster Manual, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, and Savage Species. You can find more game material at Sean's website.
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