Gaming For Charity

I’ve been busy working on Phoenix, and I’ll have more to say about that soon. But I’m also making time for a few special projects, and I hope that you’ll support either or both of them.

First up: On Saturday, October 25th I am taking part in Extra Life, a Charity program benefiting Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. I’m participating as a player with the Dungeons & Dragons team: I’m going to be playing in the first 8 hours of a 24-hour D&D marathon run by gamemaster Greg Bilsland. The entire event will be live-streamed, so you can follow along with our perilous journey. My donation page is here, and I’m personally raising money for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. In exchange for your donations, you can help establish details about the character I play – everything from my name and class to my motto or battle-cry… plus, the more money I raise, the more benefits the DM gives to me, just like the Hunger Games! In particular, if you select an Eberron option for my Race or Class, I will develop 5E stats for that element and post them here. For Race, you can choose an Eberron specific race – such as Warforged – or a traditional race with a specific Dragonmark. Note that these will not be official and may not match whatever form official 5E Eberron support takes, and in the case of the Artificer I will only develop the elements of the class as needed for this adventure, NOT a full 20-level class with a full infusion list. Nonetheless, it is an opportunity to help an awesome cause and to get the wheels turning on 5E Eberron development, and I hope you’ll lend a hand! Once again, you can find my donation page here.

A week later – on Sunday, November 2nd – I’ll be on the other side of the screen, gamemastering events for Celebrity ChariD20. This event is raising money for Reach Out And Read, a charity that promotes child literacy. I’m going to be creating a short 5E Eberron adventure with pregenerated characters. If you donate you can watch the livestream of the event, and with a donation of $15 or more you will get a copy of the Eberron adventure. You can donate here!

Both of these are excellent causes, and I hope that you will help to make them both succeed. If you have any questions about either one, please ask. Otherwise, again, please lend a hand and support Extra Life or ChariD20. Thank you!

 

Hacking 5E Eberron

I am confident that there is going to be official 5E support for Eberron, but I don’t know when it will happen or how extensive it will be… and I know that there’s people out there who want to start a 5E Eberron campaign RIGHT NOW. I can’t provide extensive support, in part because I don’t know the system well enough. I’m still learning it, and I don’t know what’s balanced and what isn’t. My first pass on a few ideas was based on material in the playtest that has now changed; it needs to be reevaluated and rebalanced, and it’s going to be a while before I have time for this. But I can still provide some advice on starting your own Eberron game.

First and foremost, reskinning is your friend. Don’t be afraid to change names and change flavor. An infernal warlock doesn’t have to be infernal; as long as your DM’s on board, there’s no reason “Dark One’s Blessing” can’t be “Blessing of the Silver Flame.” “Hellish Rebuke” becomes “Vengeance of the Flame.” And pow! – you’ve got a Silver Pyromancer. Consider the following examples…

BEASTHIDE SHIFTER WARRIOR. Mechanically, he’s a half-orc barbarian with the bear totem spirit. Which means that he’s strong and durable, he’s got darkvision, and when he gets into a fight he can temporarily enter a state where he becomes stronger and more durable. You and I know it’s “barbarian rage”; but there’s no reason you can’t describe it as beasthide shifting.

LONGSTRIDER SHIFTER DRUID OR RANGER. Mechanically, she’s a wood elf; she’s got darkvision, enhanced senses (Perception proficiency), she’s fast, and good at hiding in the woods. She doesn’t literally shift, but on the other hand, any time she moves 35 feet she’s moving faster than a human could; you could simply describe her shifting at the start of combat. There’s a few things that don’t make sense, like the fact that she doesn’t sleep and has weapon training. You could ignore that or recolor it – it’s not that she DOESN’T sleep, it’s that her senses are so sharp that she can’t be taken unawares even while sleeping, and her feral mind resists charming effects. And is it really a problem that your shifter druid happens to know how to use a longbow?

HALF-ELF ARCHER ARTIFICER. This guy might be from House Cannith, but he’s from a mixed bloodline and can’t inherit the dragonmark. But he DOES have a talent for crafting temporary magic items and for making things explode. He can recognize and identify any sort of magic by studying its aura. He’s good with rituals and can figure out how to perform anybody’s rituals. Druid? Wizard? Cleric? He understands the fundamental principles and can make anybody’s ritual work. But crossbows are his specialty. Give him a moment and he can jury-rig a hand crossbow from almost anything. Give him another moment and he can throw together an enchanted bolt. Explosive? Stunning? Radiant Damage? He can do it. Of course, mechanically he’s an Infernal Warlock with the Pact of the Tome. His mastery of rituals comes from his Book of Ancient Secrets invocation. His ability to identify any magic item is the Eldritch Sight invocation. His fantastic hand crossbow is simply the cosmetic explanation of his Eldritch Blast. He can always put a deadly crossbow together, and he can fix up a host of magic bolts. Radiant damage? Sacred Flame. Explosive Bolt? Fireball. Stunning Bolt? Hold Person. Flamethrower? Burning Hands. Of course, given that the crossbow is entirely cosmetic, he can use any of these effects without it; this time the fireball is a one-use wand he’s thrown together. The point is that “invocations” don’t have to be invocations; they can represent his expertise. Spells can be jury-rigged magic items; he’s simply limited in how many he can put together before he needs to inventory his supplies with a short rest, and he can only create items tied to his specialties. It’s obviously not perfect; he can’t repair constructs (although with the Tome pact, you can get him the Mending cantrip) or create PERMANENT magic items. But it can at least get you the FLAVOR of an artificer until the real thing gets figured out.

WHAT ABOUT DRAGONMARKS?

I have thoughts on how to handle Dragonmarks, but my ideas are still very half-baked. For now, the simplest thing to do is simply to not play a character with a Dragonmark. You could still be in a HOUSE; any number of backgrounds support this. You Guild Artisan is a Cannith heir. Your Entertainer is Phiarlan. Your Soldier is from House Deneith. Your half-orc ranger with the Outlander background is Tharashk. Your Noble isn’t an aristocrat; he’s an arrogant House heir from a particularly powerful branch of the family. He hasn’t developed the mark yet, but you just wait and see – he WILL. You don’t need to have the Mark to have the flavor of the house.

If you really really want the Mark, there’s a few ways to do it. The simplest is the Magic Initiate feat; simply relabel it “Least Dragonmark” and choose a spell and cantrips that reflect your desired class. If you’re human, you can even do it at first level. Alternately, you could explain some of your class abilities as being derived from your mark, just as I reflavored the barbarian rage as Beasthide Shifting. Combine that with an appropriate background and it can certainly work. However, I do think there is a much better way to do this; I just think it wants to be its own thing, and I haven’t worked it out to my satisfaction.

WHAT ABOUT WARFORGED AND CHANGELINGS? KALASHTAR AND PSIONICS?

While all of these things are important parts of Eberron, you can have an Eberron game without them – and for now, that’s what I suggest you do. There are lots of possibilities you CAN easily explore right away… so try one of those. One of my favorite Eberron PCs is a warforged artificer, but in the campaign I’m in right now I’m playing a half-orc paladin from the Demon Wastes… because that DOES work perfectly within the existing rules, and it’s an interesting part of Eberron I’ve never explored in depth. If I hadn’t done that I was considering playing a Royal Eye of Aundair (arcane trickster rogue), a paladin of the Blood of Vol, or an agent of the Trust. Other characters in my campaign include a Gatekeeper druid and someone actually playing Jaela Daran (a cleric of Light using halfling racial stats to reflect “child”). I really like playing warforged, and I certainly will once they are ready, but I can start exploring Eberron in 5E without them.

BUT HOW DO YOU RECONCILE EBERRON WITH RARE MAGIC ITEMS?

It’s a good question, and frankly one I can’t answer in depth until I’ve actually seen the DM’s Guide. The main thing to me is that you can keep the fundamental idea of Eberron as a world in which low-level magic is used to benefit society – where we send messages with speaking stones and light the streets with continual flame – without making magic swords commonplace. The idea of 5E is that even a +1 magic sword is a special thing, and I’m okay with that as a concept. Low level magic remains a driving force of Eberron – it just turns out than many magic items that used to be low-level are now in fact high-level.

I’ll revisit this topic once the DM’s Guide is out, and I hope that there will be official support that will address it even more clearly in the future. But the short form is that I don’t believe 5E’s approach to magic items critically damages the basic foundation of Eberron.

That’s all I have time for today, as I’m just about to head off to PAX. If you’re in Seattle, check out my schedule here – in particular, I will be hanging out at Card Kingdom from 6 PM – 8 PM this Thursday!

Before I go, here’s two quick questions from the mailbag…

WotC seems to have taken down Eye on Eberron and your other series of Eberron articles. Do you know if they have plans to put them up again in the near future, or, if not, they are mirrored elsewhere?

I think this is just about reorganizing the website to focus on 5th Edition. It looks like all the content is still archived and available. The Dragonshard articles are here. And I think this is all the 4E articles.

My players are heading into Dolurrh through a manifest zone. Thoughts on the effect on unguarded players and divine powers?

Off the top of my head, the big thing about Dolurrh is that it saps your memories. I’d have people make Wisdom saves every so often, and anytime they fail say “Tell me what you’ve just forgotten.” If they can think of something dramatic and entertaining, that’s what they’ve forgotten. If there’s nothing compelling, I might have them forget a proficiency, spell, or class ability. It’s not something you can FIGHT – so needless to say, it’s a pretty compelling reason to get out of there ASAP.

I don’t particularly think DIVINE powers would be singled out; if there’s trouble, I think arcane magic would be equally affected. Bear in mind that Dolurrh isn’t the source of negative energy – that’s Mabar. So I might run through the spell list and come up with a few spells that will behave in an unusual manner – does Speak With Dead allow you to make contact with the living? If you use resurrection magic, does it fail, or does it just zap the target right out of Dolurrh? But I don’t have a list of effects off the top of my head.

PAX 2014

This is the busiest time of year for me. Having just got back from Gen Con, I’m about to go to PAX Dev, and then stick around for PAX Prime. You can find me at the following events:

THURSDAY 2:45-3:45, Vashon

Roundtable: Worldbuilding

Designing a setting for your game can be a mind-expanding experience. Whether you’re crafting cities for an MMO or mapping terrain for an RPG, you have the whole world in your hands. Designer Keith Baker leads a discussion on what makes worlds work.

THURSDAY 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM, Card Kingdom

Hanging Out With Keith

THIS IS NOT A PAX EVENT! Thursday night I’ll be spending a few hours at Card Kingdom. Come talk about Eberron, Gloom, or what I’m doing with my new company Twogether Studios! Take a look at Fairy Tale Gloom! This is going to be an informal event so drop by anywhere in that range.

MONDAY 10:30 – 11:30, Sandworm Theatre

The Art of the Table: GMing Beyond the Basics

Fending off a horde of ravening zombies seems like child’s play, compared to wrangling the needs of a party of RPG gamers! GMs must wear the various hats of actor, guide, narrator, friend, foe, and many more… All while still staying sane and helping everyone bring the most fun to the gaming table. Ben Mandall and our panel of expert game masters will analyze what it takes to be a truly superb GM in an interactive panel that both first-time and veteran GMs will learn from. Bring your questions!

Again, my Card Kingdom event has nothing to do with PAX, so you don’t need to go to PAX to catch up with me there. One way or another, I hope to see some of you in Seattle!

Dragonmarks 8/21/14 – Drow, Dwarves and More!

As some of you may recall, my original plan was to write about Aundair. However, I’ve been a little busy recently, between conventions, Gloom, and starting my own company.  I do still plan to tackle Aundair and the Eldeen in the near future, and to talk about options for 5th Edition, as much as I can. But for now, here’s a few questions that came my way about the races of Eberron. As always, these are just my personal opinions and may contradict or clash with canon sources.

Eberron is hardly lacking in diverse character options, but none of your various Drow societies allow easy opportunities for use as player characters. Was this deliberate? Could you reasonably think of a playable Drow? As it stands, the Vulkoor-worshipers, Sulatar, and Umbragen are all xenophobic “jungle savages” for adventuring parties to slay or narrowly escape.

First off: was it deliberate that they didn’t allow EASY opportunities for player characters? Absolutely. The Drow are supposed to be alien and mysterious; I wouldn’t want them to be casually integrated into the Five Nations, because if that’s the case what makes it interesting to play one? With that said, “no easy options” doesn’t mean “no options”, so let’s look at a few.

The Foundling. In my novel The Shattered Land, we run into a gray-skinned man named Gerrion. He’s a Sulatar halfblood who now lives in Stormreach as a gambler and guide. While Gerrion is specifically half-drow, his story works just as well for a full drow; he’s drow by blood but was raised among humans. Just as the city elves of Eberron are dramatically different from the Aereni or the Tairnadal, you can always just have a city drow, who is genetically drow but not influenced by their cultures.

The Fish Out Of Water. If you consider the protagonists of the Dreaming Dark trilogy to be an adventuring party, The Gates of Night introduces a drow player character in Xu’sasar. She is a Qaltiar drow (an offshoot of the Vulkoori, but with a broader animistic tradition as opposed to being entirely hung up on scorpions) who ends up stuck with the rest of the party and as lone survivor of her clan. There’s no easy way for her to physically return to her home, and with her clan dead, not much for her to return to. So she binds herself to the party and fights alongside them, doing her best to adapt to their strange world and bizarre traditions. If you want to get a better sense of how I see this working out, well, check out the book!

The Emissary. The Umbragen aren’t “jungle savages”; if you go to the primary source, they are a subterranean culture easily as advanced as the Aereni. Most critically, they are currently locked in battle with the Daelkyr lord Belashyrra… and they are losing that war. By and large, the Umbragen aren’t xenophobic; they simply don’t CARE about the surface world. The primary reason for an Umbragen to come to the surface is to find weapons, magic, or allies to help inn their war against the Daelkyr… which is a perfectly valid path for an adventurer. If that doesn’t work for you, you could easily have an Umbragen exile who has been banished from the depths for any number of reasons, and traveled to Khorvaire because hey, they aren’t some sort of jungle savage, and if they must live on the surface they’d rather do it somewhere civilized.

 
Eberron has always reveled in non-standard takes on traditional D&D races, yet the presentation of dwarves in the setting cleaves very closely to traditional view of our favorite bearded alcoholics. Was this intentional? In a setting where the elves are Mayan necromancers and the hobbits ride dinosaurs, it seems curious to have dwarves still happily mining their mountains and hating orcs.

First off, the goal of Eberron wasn’t to change races just for the sake of changing races; it was an exploration of facets of those races. Both the Aereni and the Tairnadal are essentially a response to the long lifespan of the elves, with the idea that a race of people with a potential thousand year lifespan will have trouble letting go; thus they find ways to cling to life, preserving their heroes through magic or emulation. The intrigue-laden society of the gnomes is tied to their natural knack for illusions, ability to talk to burrowing spies, and knack for alchemy (which is to say poison). In the case of the dwarves, what I wanted to explore is something that I feel doesn’t come out often… The dwarves have all the gold (along with the best steel). If you look at the picture of the male dwarf in the 3.5 ECS, he’s not a long-bearded warrior in chainmail with an axe in one hand and a stein in the other; he’s a merchant prince. The dwarves of Eberron are the Medici banks and Saudi princes. Yes, they can fall back on their natural toughness and their love of the axe, but their power is their gold. Let’s look at Antus ir’Soldorak, chancellor of the Aurum:

Antus’s holdings include gold and platinum mines. Following the secession of the Mror Holds, he founded the Soldorak Mint, and his currency is now commonplace throughout Karrnath and the Lhazaar Principalities. He has invested his wealth across the Five Nations, and could have an interest in any sort of industry that serves the needs of an adventure. He is determined to break the power of the Twelve and stamp out the last vestiges of Galifar, and to this end he searches for new industrial and magical developments—seeking to fund such endeavors and exploit their results before the knowledge can be acquired or destroyed by the Twelve. He has an enormous gilded airship, Chains of Gold, which includes its own speaking stone station and altar of resurrection. Soldorak spends most of his time aboard his ship, flying from city to city to oversee local operations. He purchased his noble title, and technically he is a Karrnathi warlord, but he rarely visits his estates.

Just to point out, Antus isn’t a weird unique case; while it has spread across Khorvaire, the Aurum was founded in the Mror by wealthy dwarf-lords who wished to increase their influence.

So you can HAVE the drunken dwarf warrior who wants nothing more than to go beat down those mountain orcs, but he’s likely working for one of the mighty clan lords whose power comes from gold more than from iron.

There’s no question: on the surface, the dwarves are the least distinct of Eberron’s races. But there is still a unique aspect to them that can be very interesting to explore, if you dig into it.

Did any of the dwarves who kicked out the surface tribes, survive down in Khyber below the Mror holds?

Not according to canon sources, but you could always change that in your campaign. Perhaps there’s a lone fortress still holding out against the aberrations. Perhaps explorers find an amazingly advanced peaceful dwarven civilization… but is all as it seems, or are they secretly controlled by the daelkyr? Or perhaps the only survivors are the derro, the twisted remnants of the ancient dwarves. Personally, I lean towards the latter option… all that’s left below is horror and ruin, and ancient secrets waiting to be found. But it’s certainly something you could take in a different direction.

Were there any races you wanted to have in Eberron that didn’t make the cut? If so, what were they?

Well, there were the merfolk and sahuagin in the oceans, but I wasn’t pushing for those to be playable races. The only playable race that was cut from the original write-up was goblins, who have always continued to linger on the fringes of playability.

If a new PC race were to emerge, where’s your best pick as to where?

That’s too broad a question to answer without more information. Eberron is full of options for introducing new creatures or races. In some cases, the best answer would be overlaying it on an existing element… for example, replacing the half-ogre Eneko of Sarlona with Goliaths, if you want a Goliaths in your game. Wilden could be created when Oalian explodes one day. With that said, there’s lots of entities that could produce a new race. Mordain the Fleshweaver. The Daelkyr.  House Vadalis. Someone messing with the tools the giants used to create the elves and drow. A new race could have existed for ages in Khyber or Xen’drik and simply never been encountered until recently. Or it could be the result of the Mourning – a Cyran village or town spared from death, but instead transformed into an entirely different species. Each option is simply going to bring different story hooks for a player of that race.

One thing that has nettled me for years; why does the Mark of Finding manifest across racial lines? Humans never end up with the Marks of Storm or Detection, yet Tharashk counts both humans and half-orcs among their number.

An excellent question – after all, full-blooded orcs can’t get the mark either. There is no known answer, and it’s one of the many mysteries of the Dragonmarks; why are ANY of them bound to the races that they are. However, it is something that the people of the Shadow Marches point to as proof that the half-orcs are a bridge between the two races… the Mark of Finding is something humans possess and orcs don’t, but it is shared by the jhorgun’taal (the Marcher term for half-orcs, “children of two bloods”).

How do the Gnolls of the Znir Pact feel about Gnolls throughout the rest of Khorvaire?

For the most part, that they are feral barbaric savages. But it’s not like there’s a lot of gnolls IN Khorvaire outside of Droaam, and most are in desolate places like the Demon Wastes or the depths of the King’s Forest, so it’s a rare thing for a Znir gnoll to actually encounter a non-Znir gnoll.

How are warforged handling their new OS? (That is to say, 5th edition)

It’s too soon to say. There was an early version of warforged presented in the alpha playtest materials, but I think it could be improved upon, and as it wasn’t included in the PHB there’s still an opportunity for that to happen.

How may warforged did a creation forge make at one time? Did they come off in batches?

In my opinion, this varied by forge, but most forges would be designed to produce multiple warforged of the same design at one time.

If the eladrin had a chance to get a portal or spell or something that could take them back to Thelanis would they take it? Would they leave the feyspires behind?

Some might. But if you read my novel The Fading Dream, my premise is that many of the more powerful fey are tied to their spires… that they are in some ways manifestations or extensions of the spire. They could wander from it for a time, but they couldn’t choose to abandon it forever without losing their identity.

 

GenCon, Gloom, and Twogether!

GenCon2014I’m back from GenCon with a few new games to try out. While I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to play games, it was an inspiring trip and an opportunity to catch up with lots of old and new friends. There were also a few important announcements that I wanted to share.

Gloom2GLOOM 2.0 AND MUNCHKIN GLOOM

The second edition of Gloom is in stores now. You can find more information about it here, but I wanted to highlight a few things. This is an improvement to the existing game, not a complete transformation. While there are significant differences, it is possible to mix old and new cards together. With that said, if you own the first edition but still want to get the second edition, I’m working on something that will let you get good use from outdated cards… expect more news on that in a few weeks. if you have any questions about Gloom Second Edition, ask below.

However, there was another piece of Gloomy news at GenCon. I’m teaming up with Atlas Games and Steve Jackson to produce MUNCHKIN GLOOM. You may wonder how this works… after all, the goal of Gloom is to tell a sad story while keeping your opponents happy, while the foundation of Munchkin is backstabbing your friends while you amass ultimate power and wealth. Well, how exactly do you GET all that power and wealth? Munchkin Gloom takes a look at the other side of the coin, placing you in control of a dungeon full of monsters whose lives are about to be ruined by a band of obnoxiously overpowered adventurers. We’ve got a lot of fun ideas and I think it’s going to be a great flip side to the basic Munchkin saga. Munchkin Gloom will be out in 2015, along with Fairy Tale Gloom.

twogether_color_webINTRODUCING… TWOGETHER STUDIOS!

It’s been a long time coming, but my wife Jennifer Ellis and I are finally launching our own game company: Twogether Studios. I’m best known for creating Gloom and Eberron, and Twogether will reflect the principles seen in both of these. We intend to create engaging products with a strong emphasis on storytelling and imagination. We are working on RPGs, card games, and other ideas, and expect to launch our first Kickstarter in February 2015 to fund the production of a game we’ve been working on for the last year. If you want to keep up with what we’re doing, you can follow us on Twitter at @Twogetherstudio, or keep an eye on our website. I’m very excited about our plans for 2015!

PantsDnDWHAT ABOUT EBERRON?

I’m afraid this weekend didn’t produce new information about Eberron support in Fifth Edition. The D&D team at Wizards of the Coast has a lot on their plate right now managing the release of the new books, and I suspect it’s going to be a little while before they can focus on this. However, it’s something that is still in motion and I’m excited about the possibilities, so hopefully there will be solid news in a month or two. In the meantime, I’ll be getting a Q&A out later this week. And for my part, I just put together a half-orc paladin of the Silver Flame (from the Demon Wastes) to play in the 5E campaign I’m playing in. More news as soon as it’s available!

Gen Con 2014 Schedule!

It’s been a busy week getting ready for Gen Con – I hope I’ll see some of you there! If you’re going, here’s a few places you can find me.

THURSDAY AUGUST 14

2 PM, Room 210: DUNGEONCRAFT LIVE!

Kenneth Hite, Ray Winninger and I will be providing our best GMing tips.

FRIDAY AUGUST 15

4 PM, Room 210: PLAYING GOD

The role of the divine is an interesting part of world design. How do you make faith matter in a setting? How do you involve deities without making mortals feel irrelevant? I’ll be discussing these topics and more with Greg Stafford and Steve Kenson!

SATURDAY AUGUST 16

11 AM, Room 211: FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN

Horror campaigns can be tricky to pull off in RPGs. How do you overcome player knowledge? How to you address the fact that people playing a horror RPG are expecting the unnatural? I’ll be exploring the subject with Kenneth Hite, Shane Hensley, and Andrew Hackard.

5 PM – 7 PM, Hyatt Lobby: GEN CON MEETUP!

One of my favorite things about Gen Con is getting a chance to catch up with old friends and meet new people. I’ll be hanging out in the Hyatt Lobby for two hours, and happy to talk about Gloom, Eberron, or any of the projects I’m working on now!

 

If you’re not going to make it to Gen Con, I’m also going to be at PAX Prime, Rose City Comic Con, and Geek Girl Con. If you are going to be at Gen Con and plan to attend one of more of these events, leave a note below… especially if you have a topic you’d like to see covered at one of the panels!

What’s Going On With Gloom?

SDCC Booth

GLOOM SECOND EDITION

Gloom Second Edition is due to hit stores this week, and I hope to be playing it at Gen Con. But what is Gloom Second Edition? What’s different, and why was it changed?

Starting with what’s different, Atlas has a helpful list of significant changes on their website. The fundamental structure and layout of the game hasn’t changed, and it is possible to play with first and second edition cards mixed together into one deck. Here’s a few key points…

Look at Cthulhu Gloom. Like Cthulhu Gloom, the second edition uses timing icons to specify when card effects are resolved, and it has the tombstone images on death cards. One improvement over Cthulhu Gloom: Event cards now have a central image that gives them the same silhouette as Deaths, so you can’t recognize them from the back of the card.

Troublesome cards have been changed or removed. There have always been a few cards that have been too powerful (Body Thief), too confusing (Til Death Do Us Part), or simply awkward (any card that has an effect that resolves on your next turn). Some of these cards have been removed completely; others have been streamlined.

Expansion Symbols. A long-standing issue has been the difficulty of pulling out an expansion once you’ve mixed it in with your core set. Now all cards have symbols that indicates what set they belong to, making it easy to play with just one expansion at a time. In addition, the art for the story icons has had a facelift. 

All of these things are the results of ten years of playing Gloom and bumping into things I wish I could change. It’s not a complete redesign; it’s just an opportunity to improve a host of little problems. Think of it as a Designer’s Cut (I wanted to add a commentary track and some deleted scenes, but it just didn’t work out). Let me know what you think of the changes, and if you have any questions ask here!

FAIRY TALE GLOOM

My next project is Fairy Tale Gloom. We all know that many of the fairy tales we know and love turn out badly in the end, whether it’s the Little Mermaid dissolving into foam when she fails to win her Prince (spoiler alert!) or Snow White’s stepmother being forced to dance to death in red-hot iron boots. Fairy Tale Gloom gives you the opportunity to establish once and for all just which classic character had it the worst… though the winner is expected to come up with a moral for their story!

Fairy Tale Gloom is a stand-alone game that supports 2-5 players. It’s possible to mix it with any other set, and in the promo card Atlas has been handing out this summer – The Looking Glass - is intentionally compatible with both Fairy Tale and classic Gloom. However, like Cthulhu Gloom, it uses a few icons you won’t find in other sets, so you’ll water down the effect a bit if you mix it together. There’s some interesting twists in FT Gloom, but at this point we’re not sure when it will be out – certainly not until the end of the year – so I’m going to wait to dig into the details until we have a release date set!

Gloom aside, it’s an exciting time. I’ll be at Gen Con and PAX Prime, and I’ll post my Gen Con schedule in the next few days… along with a new Dragonmark!

 

San Diego Comic Con 2014: Gloomy Plans!

Tomorrow morning… far too early tomorrow morning… I am heading to SAN DIEGO COMIC CON. I’m going to be spending most of my time there in the Geek & Sundry Lounge, hanging out and playing Gloom. I’ve got the following special events on my schedule…

Friday, 11 AM – Noon: FAIRY TALE GLOOM WITH MOLLY AND MARIAN

Want a peek at the next Gloom product? I’m going to be playing a round (using an early prototype deck, to be clear) with awesome musicians Molly Lewis and Marian Call. Drop by and take a look!

Friday, 1:30 – 2:30: THE BIG GLOOM GAME

Five tables of Gloom, giant Story cards, and awesome celebrity players like Patrick Rothfuss, Boyan Radokovich, and Nika Harper! Unfortunately the tables are all filled, but it should be a good spectacle.

Friday, 4:30 – 5:30: MIDDLE-GLOOM

A few years ago I created a science-fiction themed version of Gloom that you will NEVER see published. If you want to see Wesley Crusher Set Up By Sith and Captured In Carbonite, this is the game for you. This year I’m adding a few new cards tied to one of my favorite TV shows, The Middleman, and playing with Middleman creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Middlewriter Margaret Dunlap. I expect both hilarity and hijinks!

Beyond that: on Thursday I will be hanging out at the G&S Lounge off and on, talking about all the things and playing Gloom. Beyond that: I’m also going to be at Gen Con and PAX Prime. I hope to see some of you soon!

Six Questions: Jonathan Tweet

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted Six Questions. But recently I had an opportunity to talk with Jonathan Tweet, and I couldn’t pass up the chance. Jonathan’s work has always been an inspiration to me as a designer, and I briefly had an opportunity to work with him during the early stages of 13th Age. Now he’s working on something entirely new and different.

jonathanHeadShotIf you’re not familiar with Jonathan Tweet, you may just not have been paying attention. Jonathan’s early design work includes Ars Magica and Over The Edge; OTE is a personal favorite of mine, and influenced Eberron in a number of ways. He revised Talislanta for Wizards of the Coast, and published the card-driven RPG EverwayAnd he was lead designer on a n obscure little game you’ve probably never heard of… the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons. After leaving Wizards of the Coast, Jonathan teamed up with Rob Heinsoo to create 13th Age (with a little bit of help from yours truly!). And now he’s working on something entirely new, a children’s book called Grandmother Fish.

The biggest problem in asking Jonathan six questions is that there’s more than six things I’d like to know. For example, how does he feel about D&D Next and Pathfinder? Fortunately for me, David Gross already asked that question, which freed me to focus on some of his older work.

You’ve created an amazing range of games over the course of your career. What’s your greatest strength as a designer and writer, and how is this reflected across your body of work?

I see how things can be different. While I’m good at math, and I have a clear focus on the player experience, that’s not what sets my work apart. My goal hasn’t just been to create new RPGs but to change the way people play RPGs. Fortunately, I’ve been able to do just that a couple of times. Starting in 1987, Ars Magica set a precedent for bringing more story content to characters and to game mechanics. My creative partner on Ars Magica ported the structure to the modern world with Vampire: the Masquerade, which in turn had a big influence on gaming in the 90s. In 1992, Over the Edge showed how simple, free-form rules could allow greater player creativity. That game had a big influence on the indie game movement, and I’m proud of that. In 1995, Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed rationalized the structure of the rules. That had a huge impact on how people play D&D, and it influenced countless d20 games. People are still playing that system, albeit as Pathfinder under the Open Gaming License. The new RPG from Rob Heinsoo and me, 13th Age, combines my old love of simpler systems and free-form creativity with my renewed love of the D&D experience. Time will tell how influential it proves to be, but I have high hopes. Plenty of its concepts are directly portable to other versions of the D&D game.

I also have a knack for explaining things, and I spent years innovating new ways for people to learn games. I created original-format starter sets for Ars Magica, Magic: the Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, and other games. That “beginner friendly” approach even informs the children’s book I’m doing now, the first book to teach evolution to preschoolers.

In 1992 you introduced the world to the island of Al Amarja with the RPG Over The Edge. The system is flexible and embraces player creativity, and the setting is a great source of inspiration while encouraging each GM to make the world their own. What led you to develop Over The Edge… Both setting and mechanics?

In 1990, I had left my game design career in Minnesota and a failed love affair in Barcelona, and I was back in my home town with a job selling mutual funds on commission. For my friends, I invented an accessible, creative roleplaying game, something much simpler and stranger than anything I would have designed for publication. In terms of mechanics, it was inspired by Chaosium’s Ghostbusters game, which debuted the dice pool mechanic, was super simple, and gave players a little bit of free-form creative license. The setting was inspired primarily by the writing of William S. Burroughs, especially Naked Lunch. My old friend Robin D. Laws speculated about the nature of a hypothetical RPG based on Burroughs, but he wasn’t serious about doing such a game. He inspired me to look into Burroughs, and I ended up doing a modern-day setting filled with reality-warping dangers and unseemly conspiracies.

The mechanics and setting go together. Around 1990, it was considered the height of artistic RPG design to have a fully-realized, original game world, such as you see for example in Skyrealms of Jorune or in Ars Magica. The problem I had with Ars Magica is that new players could not freely use their imaginations when creating characters because the characters had to fit into a particular setting, one that they were not familiar with. The point of Over the Edge was that a player could create a character without really looking at the rulebook. The setting was familiar: the modern day, only as weird as you can envision it. That meant that players could draw on their whole knowledge of the world to invent their characters. And the system has no skill lists, abilities scores, or other crunchy bits that constrain your character concept. The system and setting were both devoted to this core concept: that the new player could make up the character they wanted, and it would be excellent.

In 1995 you created Everway, an innovative RPG that used cards and storytelling in place of dice. What inspired you to create the Fortune Deck, and what do you feel it brings to the roleplaying experience?

Tarot cards appeal to fantasy gamers but also attract people who aren’t sword-and-sorcery fans but who like magical imagery. That was 20 years ago, before fantasy had spread as far into the mainstream as it has today. Our goal was to reach beyond the core RPG market to an untapped audience of potential new players. Honestly, it didn’t really work.

Tarot cards were my answer to the problem of what to replace dice with. Dice are cold, abstract, and numerical. If you think about it, it’s an odd component for a roleplaying game, which is creative and open-ended. In fact, one beginner role-player in my Over the Edge campaign found rolling four dice and adding the results to be too much arithmetic, especially when everyone at the table was watching and waiting for her to name her total quickly. I wanted a resolution system that wouldn’t fluster players like her. Everway’s Fortune Deck plays on the imagery of the tarot to give the player a “randomizer” that inspires the imagination, without arithmetic.

It’s fun to have a randomizer that plays on concepts instead of with numbers. The results can send play into surprising directions that wouldn’t result from a numeric input. There have been many times in play that someone drew the “exact right” Fortune Card, almost as if Fate were stacking the deck. Sometimes the card is so apt that it sends a chill down the spine. It’s fun to plug into that sort possibility with an evocative randomizer.

When your plane goes down on the way back from Australia, you find yourself stranded on an island with four strangers and four games. What games do you take?

Backgammon, Sequence, soccer, and Hillfolk. Backgammon has more randomness than chess, which allows one to play more casually. It also comes with a pair of dice that you can use for all sorts of other games. Sequence is a straightforward, team-friendly game that comes with a double-size deck of regular cards. We can turn that into two regular decks for poker, solitaire, hearts or anything. By “soccer” I guess I mean a soccer ball. Balls offer endless amusement. And finally Hillfolk, Robin D. Laws’ new RPG. It focuses on dramatic interactions between PCs, and it’s setting-neutral. We could play one setting after another, and the game is built for campaign-length play, which would come in handy on a desert island.

Your current project is something entirely new: Grandmother Fish, a child’s first book of evolution. Tell me what drove you to write a children’s book, what makes Grandmother Fish unique, and how your past experience has shaped your approach to writing it.

Fifteen years ago when my daughter was little, I started working on Grandmother Fish, trying to figure out how to make evolution accessible and appealing to a little child. I’ve always been a big fan of evolution, and I’ve got a talent for explaining things, so I started working on a manuscript. They say if you can’t explain something to a child, you don’t understand it yourself, so I took that as my challenge. The book would show a child how our ancestors evolved anatomy that we still have today, such as bones, or don’t have any more, such as tails. A children’s book author, however, let me know that my manuscript was not ready for publication. It was promising but not amazing.

Last September, after leaving Amazon Game Studios, I hit on a way to make the book amazing.  Instead of talking about body parts, like jaws and bones, the book gets the kid to mimic actions, like chomping and wiggling. Kids, parents, and teachers really love the interactive, mimicry aspect of the book. This interactive element makes the book accessible to even younger children than before. Instead of being one of several published evolution books for grade schoolers, it’s going to be the only evolution book for preschoolers.

Evolution means a lot to me personally because it’s not just an abstract scientific fact. It’s the story of how we fit into the epic tale of life on earth. Like Neil deGrasse Tyson says, affirming our connection to all living things is a soaring spiritual experience.

There’s a week left in Grandmother Fish’s fundraising campaign on Kickstarter. What are you aspirations for the campaign, and what’s your next step after Kickstarter? Are there other fields of science you’d like to explore in this way? 

Evolution is by far the science that’s most in need of a book for preschoolers. The rest of science is wonderful, too, but evolution is personal. It’s about who we are, how we got here, and our connection to the rest of the living world.

My original thought with the Kickstarter campaign was to self-publish Grandmother Fish before I got another corporate job in gaming. I didn’t want to go to my grave regretting that I’d never made the book happen because I was too busy pursuing a paycheck. But now that I’ve gotten into Grandmother Fish, I’ve made a couple important contacts in the science fields. Maybe I’ll keep mixing science into my game design career. For now I’m just focused on the Grandmother Fish Kickstarter campaign. That gives me plenty to think about each day.

Our Kickstarter funded on the third day, so at this point my aspirations are simply to reach more people. The more people we reach, the bigger a splash we make with evolution. I would like the success of the campaign to demonstrate that, yes, the country is more than ready for a preschoolers’ book of evolution. If someone merely hears about my book and thinks for the first time about teaching evolution to preschoolers, I can go to my grave happy.

That’s all for now. As of this moment there are six days left in the Grandmother Fish Kickstarter, so check it out now!

Dragonmarks 7/2/14: Subraces, Sarlona, and More!

So I’ve got over 50 questions on my slush pile, and I don’t have time to answer them all. As a result, the next few Q&As will be tied around particular themes, such as The Five Nations and Magic. This helps me narrow down the pile and will hopefully make it easier for people to find answers in the future. I’m sorting the existing questions into these categories, so if I don’t answer your question about Boranel’s children here, it’s because it’s a Five Nations topic. The next post will be on Aundair and The Eldeen Reaches, including the druids. If you have new questions on those topics, post them below!

As always, these are my personal opinions and nothing more. They may contradict previous or past canon sources.

What’s going on with D&D Next? Is the setting going to see major changes like the Forgotten Realms or is it just going to be a rules set change? Will there be new Eberron novels?

It’s too early in the process to answer these questions, I’m afraid; things are still being worked out. There will BE Eberron support for D&D Next, but exactly how extensive it is or what form it will take remains to be seen.

There’s also been a number of questions about how I’d handle specific mechanics in D&D Next, such as an artificer or dragonmarks. While I’d like to answer these questions, these are things that take a significant amount of time and testing; I don’t have answers I’m 100% satisfied with yet. All I can say is that one way or another, these answers will be coming in the future.

Are there any plans to make Eberron compatible with Pathfinder or any rules already out?

The vast majority of Eberron material that’s out there is 3.5 material, which is considerably easier to convert to Pathfinder than, say, to D&D Next. If you haven’t read this material, it’s available in PDF form at D&D Classics.  As Eberron belongs to WotC, it’s not currently possible for Paizo (or anyone else) to produce new Eberron material for Pathfinder.

What do you mean when you said you don’t use subraces? You use the drow don’t you and they are a subrace of elf!

This is mainly a 3.5 issue. I use drow, and in 4E I use eladrin, which some could see as “high elves.” But I don’t use Sun Elves, Chaos Gnomes, Snow Orcs, Star-Bellied Halflings, and so on. There are literally dozens of subraces in 3.5 D&D, and the vast majority of them exist for one of two reasons…

  • “I want to play class Y and I want to be race X but race X is terrible at class Y… so I’ll play a subrace of race X, which is exactly the same but has the perfect stats and favored class for class Y.”
  • “I think that if race X lived in environment Y, they would need to be stronger, so they should have a strength bonus.”

Humans don’t change. Inuit don’t get a bonus to Constitution because they live in the arctic. Thus, I dislike this idea that every other race should alter their stats because of the environment the live in. And if Race X isn’t the ideal match for a Class Y, I’d prefer to challenge you to think of how that race would adapt to compensate for that handicap rather than making a new version of the race that lacks it.

Let’s look at the Valenar. Many people have asked me: “Valenar like being rangers. Why not give them ranger as a favored class?” My response is that as Elves have an innate racial talent for wizardry, what you’ll see among the Valenar is a lot of rangers with a few levels of wizard—something that makes them distinctly different from other races and reflects their elven nature. In my opinion, that favored class isn’t cultural; if it was, a member of any race that grows up in another culture should have that favored class. Instead, it is fundamental to the race. Whether it’s a difference in brain structure, innate fey blood, or what have you, Elves have a natural talent for wizardry. I’d rather explore how that affects the martial culture of the Valenar than simply ignore it and make them a different sort of elf entirely.

Now, let’s look to drow and eladrin. Both have deep cultures and history within the setting. While both are racially tied to elves, they are also physically distinct on a very fundamental level—differences that occurred not just because “They lived somewhere cold” but because their ancestors were genetically altered by the magic of the giants. The only difference between a Tairnadal and an Aereni is cultural; an Aereni can choose to BECOME a Tairnadal elf. But he can’t decide to become drow or eladrin. It’s not just a cultural difference; it’s a fundamental physiological difference with a logical origin, along with an interesting role in history.

I’m not innately adverse to subraces. I’m adverse to subraces that in my mind have no logical reason to exist and that add nothing substantial to the history or story of the world. This isn’t just limited to subraces; it extends to full-on RACES. Personally, I don’t use Illumians or Goliaths or Genasi. I don’t want my world to feel like a Mos Eisley cantina, with a different species at every table. I’d rather use fewer races but really focus on their cultures, histories, and role in the world. Which leads us to…

How do the lords of dust view Tieflings and how are tiefling viewed by different nations or religions? What of very obvious tieflings?

I never used tieflings in 3.5 Eberron. However, as they are a core race in 4E D&D, I developed a place for them. In canon Eberron, tieflings can trace their roots back to Ohr Kaluun, a Sarlonan nation that made pacts with fiends; Ohr Kaluun is also the source of the skulks. During the Sundering, Ohr Kaluun was vilified and destroyed. Those tieflings that survived escaped to Droaam and the Demon Wastes, and this is where their descendants live today. The tieflings of the Demon Wastes are scattered among the Carrion Tribes and have no distinct culture of their own. The tieflings of Droaam have their own kingdom, the Venomous Demesne; this is where to go if you want tiefling pride and intrigue. However, neither the Demon Wastes or the western edge of Droaam have any real traffic with the Five Nations. In Sharn, there are in all likelihood more medusas than tieflings. And there are certainly more harpies and ogres. Tieflings simply aren’t prevalent enough for people to be aware of their origins or to have a strong opinion. When someone sees a tiefling in Sharn, their first response won’t be “Flame preserve us! Her ancestors made pacts with fiends!” Instead, it’s more likely to be “Whoa! That’s the sexiest minotaur I’ve ever seen!

With that said, if I decided I wanted to do something with tieflings, I think that the Venomous Demesne could be a fascinating place to explore. Here’s a place where the warlock tradition is the foundation of their culture, a place where fiendish bargains are a fundamental part of life. I see a lot of room for interesting intrigue. And if I was to play a tiefling from the Demesne (warlock or no), I would certainly establish what pacts the character or their family had made, what intrigues they are tied to, and what has driven them out into the wider world. While by contrast the Demon Wastes are the source for the isolated tiefling with no cultural or family connections.

How do the Lords of Dust feel about tieflings? “Whoa! That’s the sexiest minotaur I’ve ever seen!” The ancestors of the tieflings didn’t make pacts with the Overlords. There’s no innate connection that makes the Lords of Dust treat tieflings any differently than orcs, hobgoblins, humans, or what have you.

Now: that’s how I use tieflings, and it’s the canon position in 4E. But you could go a different way. You could say that tieflings are bound to the Overlords (though why do they have horns instead of stripes?). You could have them be persecuted by the Silver Flame. It’s just not what I do.

What subraces do you use in D&D Next?

Given my big diatribe there, this may come as a surprise… but at the moment I use all of them. I just don’t consider most of them to be subraces (with Drow as the sole exception); I think of them as different manifestations of the races’ natural talents. If you look to D&D Essentials, most races took the form “ELF: +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence or Wisdom.” I liked this as a way of providing flexibility, and that’s how I look at the subraces in 4E. Rather than saying “City Halflings are Lightfoot and Talenta Halflings are Stout”, I prefer to say “ANY Halfling can be Lightfoot or Stout.” These are simply different paths any member of the race can follow. So a Valenar warband would include both “wood elves” and “high elves”… just like I’ve got an ectomorphic body type, while my best friend from high school is a mesomorph.

You COULD say “All Aereni are High Elves and all Tairnadal are Wood Elves”, but again, this raises all those issues like “But an Aereni can become a Tairnadal” and “What about a elf who was raised by humans?” For me, it’s just simpler to say that they aren’t “subraces”, they are simply different manifestations of elf found in all elven communities. The drow are a clear exception, because again, you can’t just “decide to be a drow when you grow up”; they have a significantly distinct physiology and a clear role in the world.

If you were to run a campaign aimed at ridding Sarlona of the Inspired, what would it take for the Inspired to lose hold of Sarlona?

The simplest answer is the one the Kalashtar are pursuing: get the cycle of Dal Quor to shift, bringing an end to the Age of il-Lashtavar. If this is done, all the quori will be drawn back to Dal Quor and transformed. Do that, and you end the occupation in a moment. So the question is what you can do to accelerate that.

First of all: if you haven’t done it yet, read Secrets of Sarlona. Otherwise, much of what I say here won’t make sense.

My first question: Why do you want to rid Sarlona of the Inspired? Do you have a system in mind to take its place? At the moment, the people of Riedra love the Inspired, and the Inspired provide for their basic needs. They are denied many freedoms people of Khorvaire take from granted, but they largely don’t have to worry about crime, starvation, shelter, etc. As you can see in regime changes across the world, when you kick out a dictator you create a vacuum… and what’s going to fill it? In ridding Sarlona of the Inspired, will you collapse Riedra into civil war, famine, and plague?

Assuming you’ve got an answer to that, there’s a few lynchpins to the Inspired system. The major key is the hanbalani monoliths. These control the dreams of the people, serve as planar anchors and power generators, and are the backbone of continental communication. Whether you’re acting on a regional level or continental, the hanbalani are vital targets. The second critical target is the psionic teleportation circles that allow swift transportation of troops and supplies. Of course, these draw on the local hanbalani for power, so if you eliminate one you eliminate the other.

You’d also likely want to work with existing dissident groups: The Broken Throne, the Dream Merchants, the Horned Shadow, the Unchained, and the Heirs of Ohr Kaluun. Of course, some of these groups – notably, the Heirs of Ohr Kaluun – are worse than the Inspired, so it’s again a question of who you really WANT to help.

But the most important ally and the true key to success would likely be the Edgewalkers—the Riedran military arm tasked with defending the nation from extraplanar threats. It would be incredibly difficult, but if you could convince the Edgewalkers that the Inspired themselves are an extraplanar threat, you’d gain access both to a disciplined corps of people trained in dealing with hostile spirits and a force recognized as heroes by the common people.  However, it’s all how you prove this. Just saying “They’re possessed by spirits” won’t do the trick, because EVERYONE KNOWS THAT; you’d need to prove that those spirits aren’t what they say that they are, and that despite the fact that they’ve kept the nation prosperous and cecure for a thousand years – and despite the fact that they themselves created the Edgewalkers – that the Inspired are somehow an evil threat that must be removed.

Could you go into more detail about what you think would happen if all the Quori disappeared, leaving their Inspired vessels empty? Are Chaos and civil war inevitable?

It’s a valid question. If the only thing that happened is that the quori themselves vanished – say the Age turned without a visible terrestrial struggle – it wouldn’t actually be immediately obvious to anyone except the Chosen (the mortal hosts of the Inspired) themselves. And the Chosen aren’t simply puppets who would suddenly be useless if the Inspired vanished. A few things to bear in mind:

  • Most quori have multiple Chosen vessels and move between them. Thus, the Chosen are used to operating and ruling even without quori guidance. It’s been noted that over the course of years, the presence of a quori has an effect similar to mind seed; the Chosen essentially thinks like the quori even when the quori isn’t present.
  • Tied to this is the fact that there are also a significant number of actual mind seeds around Sarlona. For those who aren’t familiar with the discipline, mind seed essentially reformats a creature’s brain to be a duplicate of the manifester, minus a few levels of experience. So mind seeds are humans, ogres, whatever – but with the personality, memories, and some of the class levels of a quori. They’ll all still be around even if the quori are transformed.

So eliminating the QUORI wouldn’t immediately throw every community into chaos. The Chosen are capable of leading and the people are used to obeying the Chosen. However, there are three other things that would cause more trouble.

  • The hanbalani monoliths are used for communication and more significantly, to control the dreams of the populace. The people of Riedra don’t think of dreams as a source of inspiration or creativity; they think of them like a news channel, where they get the latest information. This is part of what gives them such a sense of unity: they literally share the same dream. Once you eliminate that, first you have wiped out the government’s ability to provide news; second, there is an excellent chance that people will panic when they start having everyday normal nightmares, because they’ve never had them before. They may think that evil spirits are attacking them, or just generally freak out because they don’t know what’s going on. You could mitigate this with help from the Unchained, who are Riedrans who have experiemented with dreams, but it’s going to be the main immediate source of panic.
  • The hanbalani also power the system of psionic teleportation circles. If the hanbalani are left intact, there would be Chosen or mind seeds who could maintain them, even if they couldn’t create new ones. But if you eliminate the hanbalani and thus this network, you’re going to have communities that no longer have access to supplies they are accustomed to, which could thus lead to shortages, famine, etc.
  • Most of all: the Chosen may be capable leaders on their own, but they lack the pure unity of purpose shared by the quori. What I’ve said before about immortal outsiders is that to a large degree they lack free will. Kalashtar aside, the quori have a truly inhuman dedication to their common goal. This is enhanced by the fact that they are planning their actions from Dal Quor (where time moves at a different rate than on Eberron). The Inspired Lords of the major cities may never meet in person, because they don’t have to; their quori meet and make plans in Dal Quor and then return to the Chosen. Left on their own, the Chosen may be good leaders, but they are human. They will come up with their own goals and agendas. They will have doubts about one another. The leaders of the Thousand Eyes may decide that they are best suited to maintain order… and be opposed by the military leaders or the Edgewalkers.

So a certain amount of chaos and panic are inevitable once people start dreaming. The Chosen may maintain order, but without the unifying, inhuman influence of the quori I think that you will get factionalizing and civil war fairly quickly. With that said, I don’t see things dissolving into UTTER chaos; I think you’d see a breakdown into three or four major factions/nations, with a handful of isolated independent communities scattered around them. The largest of these would likely be a faction maintaining that the quori will return – that people need to maintain tradition and calm and just wait it out. But I think you’d get SOME significant factions moving in different directions.

Will common people revolt against their masters without pacifying influence of the hanbalani?

I don’t think that’s a given, but it’s a possibility. Again, the majority of people in Riedra BELIEVE in the Chosen and Inspired. They will be looking to the Chosen to fix things, not instantly turning on them. On the other hand, SOME might instantly turn on their lords.

Or will any external power take a chance to prey on weakened Riedra?

I don’t think there’s any mundane force powerful enough to try to INVADE Riedra. They’d still have their military infrastructure, even if leadership is fragmented. I think it’s far more likely that Riedra’s greatest enemy would be other Riedrans, as different Chosen lords pursue different agendas to fix things. But setting aside the concept of invasion, there’s lots of forces that would take advantage. The Akiak dwarves. The Heirs of Ohr Kaluun, who I think would immediately seize at least one small province. The Horned Shadow. For that matter, I could easily see a Lord of Dust deciding that this is a perfect opportunity to gain followers… or failing that a group of dragons. The main question on those last two is if they were certain the quori were GONE; otherwise they might not want to poach so quickly. But that leaves another possibility…

WHAT WOULD THE NEW QUORI DO? The easiest way to get rid of the quori is for the age of Dal Quor to turn. This effectively eliminates ALL kalashtar and Inspired; their quori spirits will be sucked back into Dal Quor and released in a new form that fits the flavor of the new age. In all likelihood they wouldn’t immediately return to Eberron, because we’ve established that the quori of a new age know nothing about the quori of the previous age; they wouldn’t know anything about Riedra, the Inspired, or any of that. However, if you WANTED to, you could decide that these new quori are quick learners… and that they actually do return to the Chosen in a new, more benevolent form, and work with them to create an entirely new Riedra.

OF COURSE… if something like this happens, are you entirely sure you believe them? Or could it be the old quori just trying to get your PCs to leave them alone?

I’ve been trying to understand a few things about the shifter nations of the Tashana Tundra. So I said to myself, where there are shifters, there must be lycanthropes… but what happened to lycanthropes beyond western Khorvaire during the 9th century? Were they not affected by the new strain of lycanthropy that led to the Purge?

You’re working from a flawed premise: “Where there are shifters, there must be lycanthropes.”  While many people assume that shifters are thin-blooded lycanthropes, there’s a shifter tradition that maintains that the reverse is true – that the shifters came first, and that the first lycanthropes were created from shifters. The existence of a shifter nation elsewhere in the world—in a place where lycanthropy may not even exist—certainly supports this idea.

That same article calls out the fact that the shifters and the lycanthropes weren’t allies. The only way the Shifters were affected by the strain of lycanthropy that led to the Purge was that the lycanthropes sought to use them as scapegoats and living shields. Even before the Purge occurred, there was a sect among the Eldeen shifters dedicated to hunting down evil lycanthropes, because those guys are bad news for everyone.

So, the short form is that the Purge had no particular impact on the shifters of Sarlona.

A second question is how shifters migrated from one continent to the other. Setting aside the plausible possibility of parallel evolution, the most likely possibility is that a tribe of shifters passed through Thelanis via manifest zones… the same way Daine & co get from Xen’drik to Sarlona in The Gates of Night. The Eldeen certainly has its fair share of Thelanian manifest zones.

You’ve mentioned before that a LE cleric of the Silver Flame would detect as LG, as the clerical aura is stronger than that of his personality. What would happen, if by some twist of fate, someone became a CG paladin (of freedom) of the Silver Flame (3.5, Unearthed Arcana)? Would others be able to detect that she is chaotic?

This is a house rule that I discuss in detail here. Under 3.5 rules, a divine power has an alignment. The Silver Flame is Lawful Good. A cleric has a powerful divine aura tied to his divine power source that is actually stronger than his personal aura. So a chaotic cleric of the Silver Flame will radiate an aura of law.

All this is based on the 3.5 SRD description of detect (alignment). This spell specifically calls out CLERICS as having that powerful aura. As a DM, I would be willing to extend this effect to “divine spellcaster,” thus including paladins, favored souls, and so on. However, by the rules as written, a paladin wouldn’t have this aura.

A key point, however: this isn’t some sort of trick or loophole you can take advantage of. If you have a divine aura, it is because you have deep faith and a mystical connection to that source. To be cloaked by the aura of the Flame, that LE Cleric must be truly devoted to the Flame; it’s simply that he may take evil actions in pursuing that faith and philosophy. So assuming that you or your DM allow paladins to have that aura, your paladin must be called by the Flame to have its aura. If you see a way to reconcile a Paladin of Freedom with faith and devotion to the Flame, this could work, and it would conceal a chaotic alignment. But again, it’s not a trick or a cheat; it’s because the character literally is bound to something bigger than himself, and that bond overshadows his personal alignment.

Did the Thranes of the Church of the Silver Flame, at least some of its priests, care for the wounded of rival nations during the Last War?

The faith of the Silver Flame maintains that the best way to combat human evil is by showing an example of virtuous behavior, through acts of compassion and charity. Given that, anyone who follows the Silver Flame would be encouraged to show kindness to prisoners. We’ve established that the Puritan faith of Aundair tends to stray from this and lose sight of the value of compassion, and Breland has the highest percentage of corrupt priests (of all faiths, not just the Flame). Still, you could expect to see such acts of kindness from any truly devoted follower of the Flame. And overall, I would certainly expect Thrane to have the best record for taking care of prisoners of war.

Since Jorasco works for profit, and the CotSF is understood as being more altruistic, were there voices that opposed more aggressive factions and took care of and even healed rival soldiers and civilians from other nations?

Throughout all Five Nations you surely found conscientious objectors who refused to fight. Some simply left; this is how the current human civilization of Q’barra was founded. Others might have done their best to care for the injured, especially innocent civilians; I’d expect such behavior from adepts of Boldrei just as much as from priests of the Silver Flame. But a key point here: You suggest that this might present an alternative to Jorasco, because Jorasco works for profit. The key is that the church simply don’t have the resources to offer some sort of free alternative to Jorasco that could provide all the services Jorasco is capable of providing. In the present day, you do have charitable clinics maintained by both the Flame and the Host (again, Boldrei is all about caring for the community). Go to such a place and you’ll find an acolyte trained in the Heal skill that will do their best to assist you. But they can’t provide magical healing. One of the central pillars of Eberron is that people with player character classes are rare, and that even at first level PCs are remarkable people. The typical priest of any faith isn’t a cleric; he is an expert trained in skills like Diplomacy, Religion, Sense Motive, History, Heal, etc. The role of the priest is to provide moral and spiritual guidance to his community, not to cast spells for them. Divine casters are rare and remarkable people who are likely to be pursuing vital missions for their faith. There simply aren’t enough spellcasting clerics in the world to replicate the services that Jorasco provides, and even Jorasco couldn’t provide those services based on spellcasters; it relies on Dragonmark focus items that can be used more frequently than Vancian magic allows. The reason Jorasco can charge what it does is because it’s the only place you can get magic healing RIGHT NOW when you want it.

Having said that: Thrane has more divine spellcasters than any other nation. This was a key military asset for the nation during the Last War. But even there, it doesn’t have so many of them that it could simply treat them as a replacement for combat medics. There are many things a divine spellcaster can do that can have a more dramatic impact on the outcome of a battle than healing an individual soldier, especially when you can buy that service from Jorasco.

So might there have been priests in Thrane who healed enemy combatants and civilians? I’m sure there were. Just bear in mind that this didn’t somehow make Jorasco obsolete or redundant, because these charitable healers couldn’t offer all the services Jorasco can.

What would happen if the Dragons launched their next attack on the elves and the elves wiped them out without effort? Full scale war?

Just like the true cause of the Mourning, the motivation for the Elf-Dragon conflict is left to the individual DM. Consider this quote from Dragons of Eberron:

Those who study this puzzling behavior ask… What motivates this seemingly endless struggle? If the dragons truly wish to eliminate the elves, why don’t they commit their full forces to the task? If they don’t care enough to do so, why do they continue to fight in such piecemeal fashion?

One theory is that the dragons despise the exten­sive practice of necromancy, even when it draws on the positive energy of Irian, but do not view it with the same abhorrence as the giants’ planar studies. Thus, they cannot agree en masse that Aerenal should be laid low.

Another possibility is that the struggle is a form of exercise for the dragons, a proving ground for the younger warriors of the Light of Siberys. Conversely, it might be that the wars are fought to test the elves and harden them for some future conflict, just as a soldier will sharpen his blade in preparation for battles to come. The dragons might be unwilling to share the secrets of their power with lesser races, but they can still push the lower creatures to reach their full potential. The long struggle with the dragons has certainly forced the Aereni wizards and Tairnadal warriors to master the arts of war and magic.

The response to an overwhelming defeat would depend on the reason for the attacks. If the purpose of the conflict is in fact to hone the skills of the elves, it could be that the dragons would be pleased by this outcome. It could be that, thanks to the Prophecy, the dragons know that an Overlord will be released in Aerenal… and that if the elves couldn’t defeat a dragon attack, they’d never be ready to face the Overlord. If the dragons were using the elves as a training ground for their young warriors, I don’t think they’d seek vengeance on the elves for defeating them; the dragons chose the battle, not the elves. Instead, I think it would mean that they’d chose a NEW target for future training exercises—something more evenly balanced. Perhaps Sharn?

Divine Ranks and Eberron, where do the progenitors stand, for example?

Frankly, they don’t. Divine Ranks are part of a god’s statistics, suggesting the power it wields when it manifests… and the deities of Eberron don’t manifest. The only beings we’ve assigned Divine Rank to in Eberron are the Overlords of the First Age, precisely because they DO manifest in this world; IIRC, we’ve set their divine ranks at 7.

Now, looking to the Progenitors, consider a few things. IF you take the myths at face value and believe that they are literally true, the Progenitors created reality as we know it. They didn’t just create planets and creatures; they created all of the planes that we know. At the end of all of this, Eberron became the world. Eberron can’t physically manifest because doing so would be the equivalent of the world stretching out and standing up. The Progenitors exist on a scale beyond everything else. And no one believes that they directly grant spells. Many druids revere Eberron, but they don’t think that Eberron listens to them or personally answers their prayers; Eberron sleeps, holding Khyber in her coils, and what they respect is the system she created. So, if I had to give Eberron a divine rank, I’d make it a minimum of 30. They are the over-est of overdeities.

I’m running a 3.5 Eberron game and the bottom line is this: Vol is seeking to attain godhood by sacrificing hundreds of thousands of lives in a mater of days. To do this, she has discovered a set of powerful artifacts that would awaken the greatest and most powerful evil of all and bind it to her will. The entity? Not an Overlord, but KHYBER himself, restored, not in full cataclysmic power, but close. She then intends to send him again the Five Nations and harvest the souls through several Eldritch Engines. I would appreciate your input on this plot and to suggest any substitutions or monsters that might represent Khyber.

This question runs into the same problem I mentioned above. Khyber is literally the underworld. Khyber is the demiplanes that exist in the world. If Khyber was truly somehow physically restored to its primal form, a) you’d be ripping out the heart of the world, which would have cataclysmic effects; and b) the scale is simply too grand for PCs to face it. Consider Siberys. If you believe the myth, the Ring of Siberys is literally the remains of Siberys’ body… and it wraps around the entire world. The Progenitors are simply TOO BIG to be brought into a normal combat.

With that said, I’m not one to stomp on a story. So if you want to keep Khyber as your threat, you could say that it isn’t Khyber’s true body, but rather a physical manifestation of Khyber’s spirit… in which case, it can be the biggest, baddest dragon you care to put together.

However, if I may suggest an alternative: I wouldn’t use Khyber for this plot. Among other things, Khyber isn’t a force of death (I realize Siberys might argue this point). ALL the Progenitors are forces of creation; Khyber may create fiends, aberrations, and monsters, but that’s still creation. If Khyber were to manifest, I wouldn’t expect the occasion to be marked by a big dragon smashing things; I’d expect to see hordes of new monsters and fiends being created by this event. None of which really fits the idea of Vol becoming a Goddess of Death.

 

So my suggestion is that she summon one of Khyber’s children… specifically, Katashka the Gatekeeper. Katashka is the Overlord that embodies death and undeath. If Vol wants to become a goddess, what she basically wants to do is to take Katashka’s place. So my plot would be that Vol finds a way to release Katashka and bind him to her will, harnessing the deaths that he causes and ultimately using that power to usurp his place and become him.

The Overlords are entities with an approximate divine rank of 7. You can see find more details about creating an Overlord in 3.5 rules in Dragon 337; you can get a PDF of this issue here.

OK, there’s still a lot of questions on my pile – let’s do a quick lightning round of ones with short answers.

What happened to Eberron’s thirteenth moon?

It was destroyed by the giants of the Sul’at League during the conflict between the giants and the Quori of the previous age. This action had horrific physical and mystical consequences for Eberron, and this is why the dragons intervened the next time the giants considered using such a weapon. It’s discussed in more detail in the novel The Gates Of Night.

Does the force known as the Silver Flame have adherents beneath the waves? A different take on it like the Gash’kala?

Not in any canon source. It certainly doesn’t fit sahuagin culture as it’s been presented. However, if you play with the idea that the aboleths are agents of an aquatic overlord, one could assume that the aquatic races fought them during the Age of Demons; given that, I could see having a merfolk interpretation of the Silver Flame that traces back to that conflict. But it’s not something that’s ever been concretely defined.

Would there be werewolf war if a werewolf lord were to appear?

I’m not sure what you mean by “werewolf war” – a war between werewolves, or a new attack on the scale of the one that triggered the Purge. There IS someone I’d consider a “werewolf lord” in Eberron: Zaeurl, the leader of the Dark Pack. She’s been keeping the Pack on track and alive for the last two centuries. On the other hand, if you mean something more like an Overlord, I suggest you check out The Queen of Stone for my take on that idea…

 Would anyone on Khorvaire care if Stormreach was destroyed?

Absolutely! Stormreach is the gateway to Xen’drik, which is a source of many imported goods—dragonshards, kuryeva, eternal rations, and more. Dragonshards are the key, as they are a vital part of the magical economy. Plus, something that could destroy Stormreach could presumably threaten any coastal town in the Five Nations. I’d expect it to be a serious concern.

Besides the Lord of Blades and his whole warforged supremacy thing, what other cults, societies or groups have emerged in and around the Mournland?

I’ll revisit this in the future in more detail, but the short form is that it’s very difficult for any human to live IN the Mournland, both because of the hostile environment and simple lack of natural resources. But you’re going to see scavengers and salvagers; refugees who have established communities on the edge; cults of the Dragon Below that believe the Mournland is the promised land; bandits willing to take the risks to shelter from the law; and creatures that have evolved to live in the Mournland (want a city of Abeil? It just popped up in the Mournland!). Per canon, you have a wider range of warforged factions than just the followers of the Lord of Blades. And don’t forget the magebred empress and her followers (from the 4E ECG).

Beyond the world, sun, and the thirteen moons, are any other celestial bodies in the galaxy described anywhere?

Not in any canon source that I’m aware of. Though the 3.5 ECS includes constellations.

OK, that’s all I have time for now. If you have questions about Aundair or the Eldeen Reaches, post them below!