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A slightly different take on Eberron

Jian

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I've always wanted to run a game in Eberron, but never quite got round to it; as I did with the Forgotten Realms, I just wanted to change it up a bit. Add in what relevant fantasy I've read in the last few years (the Divine Cities and Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett, the first Craft Sequence book by Max Gladstone), and I've been looking to change the setting to be able to tell some different - more modern, more about economics and politics, less about pulp D&D - stories in it. Here's where I've got so far.

Part 1: Khorvaire, Galifar, and the Industrial Reformation

The majority of the action on the world of Eberron happens on the most populated continent, Khorvaire, which for centuries was dominated by the large human kingdom, Galifar. However, over a century ago, Galifar was shattered by the deaths of gods and the rise of industry.

It all began in the province of Cyre, where in 1776 the wizard-artificer Cannith worked out how to industrialise magic. Cannith created the first schema for the mass production of magical devices (which, now on display at the Sharn Museum of Antiquities in Breland, was for a water purifier). Cannith and his fellow pioneer magewrights then marketed their devices to improve the lives of his fellow citizens by providing lighting, heating, healing, and sanitation to the masses. Despite the potential for a new golden age for humanity, however, these advances were forbidden by the temples of the Gods of Galifar, known collectively as the Sovereign Host; the church of Aureon, god of magic and knowledge, was the first to declare that magewrights were heretics and arcane technology was an abomination. Their condemnation was soon supplemented by that of many others, including the temples of Dol Arrah the champion and Olladra the fate-spinner.

Cannith and his colleagues responded with what would become known as the Industrial Reformation – they altered the flows of thaumic energy in Galifar, drawing the belief of millions towards their industrial families, the so-called Dragonmarked Houses, to create more schemas and more devices, which then diverted more belief and magical energy. The virtuous cycle – or vicious cycle, depending on your point of view – both rapidly advanced the breakneck speed at which technology developed in the 19th century, and rapidly starved the Gods of the spiritual energy that sustained them. One by one, the Gods of Galifar shrank and died, with only two – Vol, goddess of death, and the Silver Flame, a fragment of Dol Arrah – surviving to the present day.

Galifar became fatally divided between those who followed the Houses into the modern global economy and those who still worshipped their traditional patrons. Division turned to war, and war spread like a forest fire into the other kingdoms of Khorvaire. Galifar split into the so-called Five Nations of Aundair, Breland, Cyre, Karrnath, and Thrane, with the first three fielding Reformed armies of wandslingers and warforged against the Vol-raised Karrn dead men and the Thrani crusaders of the Silver Flame. The Last War raged fitfully for nearly ninety years, inflicting terrible casualties, destroying economies and communities, and enriching the Dragonmarked Houses.

It all came to an end in 1916, when an unidentified magical disaster devastated Cyre. To this day, none know what caused the land to burn and crumble, the air and water to become poison, and six million people to die. The formation of the uninhabitable Mournland shocked all of Khorvaire; and having paused and re-examined, the warring nations signed the Treaty of Thronehold in 1918.

Ten years later, Khorvaire is at uneasy peace. The feuds and hatreds that caused and sustained the Last War are far from gone, and in many places worse than ever. Aundair, in particular, ruled as it is by a direct descendant of the last King of Galifar, maintains that the surviving Gods killed Cyre and will kill us all – only by reuniting Galifar under the enlightened rule of Queen Aurala and the benevolent global capitalism of the Dragonmarked Houses can humanity find peace and healing. Breland, the industrial centre of Khorvaire, would rather get on with building the future and putting yet more dragonmarks on the market to benefit us all. Karrnath exports zombie labourers on the open market and signs treaties between their vampire king and the elven lich-queen of Valenar. Thrane’s missionaries take the word of the Silver Flame to all nations and scheme to return the old Gods to life, or make new ones.

Outside the human kingdoms, most blame the Five Nations for a war that nearly destroyed all of civilisation and swear to never ally with humans again. The gnomes of Zilargo will bank your money and educate your children, but they will finance no more human wars. The dwarves of the Mror Holds and the Lhazaar Principalities will build and sell you components for lightning trains and elemental airships, but not for more human wars. The elves of Valenar and the Eldeen Reaches will teach you hygiene and sell you medicines, but not for more human wars. The goblins of Darguun, Droaam and the Shadow Marches will fight each other any day of the week, but not in more human wars. The halflings of the Talenta Plains are perfectly happy as nomadic herdsmen, thank you kindly, and no thank you to human wars. The multiracial and idealistic nation of Q’barra has enough problems writing a constitution without getting involved in your stupid human wars. Get the picture?
 
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Jian

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(The non-human races mostly have their own gods and would be very unhappy if anyone killed them, too – hence their suspicion of the Dragonmarked Houses. Which isn’t to say that they won’t take their money – the Mror Holds manufacture and sell industrial parts to the Houses, and the goblin kings happily allow human miners into their territories to prospect for dragonshards. But Onatar the smith is still god of the dwarves, the elves worship fertile Arawai, the gnomes revere Kol Korran the moneylender, and the goblins worship anyone who is sufficiently awesome, such as Balinor the hunter or the incomprehensible demons known as the Devourer, the Mockery, and the Fury. It’s said that the Q’barrans are trying to build their own goddess, Liberty by name.)
 

RobertEdwards

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Nice!

I'm sure you have a good reason for killing off the Sovereign Host. However, I would expect that, rather than dying off, they've been IGNORED.

They never manifested directly anyway, and it's now more difficult for them to have any influence at all. Devoted worshiper are RARE, pretty much restricted to PC Clerics and the occasional cult. They're still worshipped on other continents and in their manifestations to the non-human races,

Gods hate being ignored.

And a secret Changling priest-crusader of the Traveler could be tremendous fun in this setting.
 

Jian

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Thanks, RE. I killed them off (well, not all of them - only Aureon, Dol Arrah, and Ollandra are down as definitely dead or diminished) because it's got much more narrative potential. It establishes that you can kill gods, and the thaumic energy economy, about which there'll be more later. It doesn't mean they can't come back, in some form or another - I really liked the cannibalisation of deities with Seril/Justice in Three Parts Dead, which is deliberately echoed in Dol Arrah/the Silver Flame here.

What god-remains will the Q'barrans need to build Liberty, and who will do it for them (can they do it for themselves, or are experts from the Dragonmarked Houses not the best people to do so, for a fee)? And how does such a Frankenstein goddess work, even before you get into all the projections of her worshippers on to her about how they think she ought to work? What other gods are being built, by whom, for what purpose?
 

ezekiel

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Out of curiosity, have you played a game in "standard" Eberron before? It's not clear from your post if that's the case. If not, it may be helpful to do so (or read others doing so). I don't mean to be all "oh you want to do X? Well have you tried *not*-X?" I just think it's useful to know what your baseline is before you go ripping out huge core themes and rewriting them in interesting new ways. (Frex, classic Eberron has never had the gods show up in person at all, AFAIK, so this huuuuuugely alters the divine/mortal interaction with deep implications about past and present.)

Also, don't forget Argonnessen, the dragons, and the Draconic Prophecy/ies. Those are some pretty big things.
 

Jian

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I haven’t played or run in Eberron as written, but have read most of the books, and so am aware of those things, yes. For instance, the Gods in my version don’t have to physically turn up, and haven’t done so - it doesn’t change what happens. Equally, while there are many other big things in the Eberron sandbox, I haven’t included them here - I haven’t fitted them in yet into the themes, and probably never will.

This is just a different take on the core themes of Eberron, and more focused in a way that a game setting meant to include as many ideas as possible doesn’t have the luxury of being. After all, a core design concept of Eberron as written is to include and allow everything possible in D&D (which has led to some interesting contortions as the editions changed), which this version is explicitly not about.
 

Nerag

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I always thought the comparative emptiness if Khorvaire was odd... lots of isolated settlements and abandoned goblin ruins within a short walk of the Orien Express... So I thought: why not make Khorvaire a relatively recent occupation? Instead of a thousand year occupation, why not have humanity have been in Khorvaire for about 100 years. This would make the last war about 10 years long. This means that the Goblinoids have been turfed out of their land for up to 3-5 generations and the arrangement with the Halflings and Gnomes is a recent one. This explains the weird scattered nature of the settlements, allows for a convincing frontier feel to many parts of Khorvaire and also sets the stage for a cold war with Sarlona and the Quor. The Humans fled the Quori a relatively short time ago, but there isn't a real understanding of why... it is publicly understood as a political and cultural revolution... a bit like the white and red Russians perhaps or maybe it makes Khorvaire a bit like Taiwan... only it is about as large as the motherland.
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

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I just think it's useful to know what your baseline is before you go ripping out huge core themes and rewriting them in interesting new ways.
Why? It's not a rules system: nothing's going to cause over- or underpowered combos that cause the game to bog down and/or break. At worst you run into an aspect of the setting that you forgot to update, and that only requires imagination vs mathematical analysis.
 

Numanoid

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Nah, I don’t like it.

By making a setting where these gods definitively exist and you can provide proof of their deaths, you remove the ambiguity of the setting that makes it post-war Noir and turn it into Dragonlance-style high fantasy, which is great but it ain’t Eberron.

You also remove any nuance from the Dragonmarked Houses by making them broad villains that are *killing the gods!*
 

ezekiel

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Why? It's not a rules system: nothing's going to cause over- or underpowered combos that cause the game to bog down and/or break. At worst you run into an aspect of the setting that you forgot to update, and that only requires imagination vs mathematical analysis.
I'd had a longer post explaining why, but it felt pedantic--perhaps I was incorrect to think so.

The reason is the same as why you'd do research on any topic when you're sitting down to write stories yourself: so you know what you're changing, and what that will mean. Eberron has several very consciously-constructed themes. It's not slapped together, it's very thought-out, and the consequences of (frex) making dragons explicitly not have color-coded alignment were known and set well in advance. In fact....
By making a setting where these gods definitively exist and you can provide proof of their deaths, you remove the ambiguity of the setting that makes it post-war Noir and turn it into Dragonlance-style high fantasy, which is great but it ain’t Eberron.

You also remove any nuance from the Dragonmarked Houses by making them broad villains that are *killing the gods!*
...this is exactly covers one of my things. Jian has said that this world is more "focused" than Eberron; it strikes me as being a completely different world where there are certain name similarities to Eberron. It strikes me as a total re-imagining of Eberron, rather than merely a "slightly different take."* The fact that gods objectively exist (or existed, for most of them), as opposed to there being a completely legitimate claim that there are no gods and divine magic is only and exclusively a different approach to power? Kind of a huge deal. The fact that these "schemata," however useful they may be, literally destroyed civilization by killing the gods? Again, kind of a huge deal.

Those are cool ideas--not my cup of tea, but still cool--they're just really radically opposite stuff that all of Eberron was built to play upon and reinforce: moral ambiguity, religious ambiguity, politics between inconsistently-behaving factions, the clash of five really different modes of power (divine, arcane, primal, psionic, artifice). Ripping out several of these without the context in which they're embedded sounds like a good way to produce a disjointed world, where the foundation is set up for classic Eberron and the building is this alt-Eberron. Like wrapping the flesh of a tiger onto the skeleton of a grizzly or vice-versa: they're not so radically different that it couldn't work at all, but they do work differently and the gap between the two may be a problem down the line. Unexamined assumptions is the key problem. Eberron was crafted carefully for what it is; now that careful craft is being taken as assumed, except where changed, and if you don't actually know what you're assuming, the changes and the underlying assumptions are very likely to conflict somewhere down the line (and probably a lot).

Of course, Jian has expressed that they feel sufficiently well-versed to make these kinds of alterations, so as far as they're concerned they've done what I suggested already. And that's fine. Like I said, this isn't my cup of tea to begin with (Eberron is already a step away from my usual preferences), but whether I like it or not has no bearing on whether it can be an awesome, fun campaign. But if you're going to do "it's Eberron, but..."/"it's Eberron, plus..." you should probably already know what Eberron is.

*For comparison, imagine someone saying a "slightly different take on Athas," where only most of the gods died. That's...a really goddamn big change, 'cause suddenly divine magic proper is possible again, and survival-boosting spells are a hell of a lot easier to acquire. Such a world strongly resembles Dark Sun, may even copy wholesale its baddies and playable races etc., but it's a lot more than "a slightly different take." And if someone did that without much experience of what playing classic Dark Sun is like? I'd give them exactly the same advice: if you want to run "Thing, but..."/"Thing, plus..." you should get a good grip on "Thing" first.
 
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