Eberron turns Thirteen!

I first began working on Eberron in 2002, but the Eberron Campaign Setting was released in June of 2004. So the setting has just turned thirteen, and anyone who knows Eberron will know that thirteen is a number with special significance. There are thirteen planes, thirteen moons, thirteen dragonmarks… although all too often, one of these thirteen is destroyed or lost. While here in the United States we’re still waiting for Eberron to be unlocked for 5E, a gaming community in Peru organized a month-long Eberron celebration in honor of its 13th anniversary. The tome pictured above is a cake produced for that celebration, and it is one of the most fantastic things I’ve ever seen.

While I couldn’t make it to Peru for the party, I did appear in video form, and I promised to answer a question chosen by the group. I’ll get to that at the end of this post, but before I do I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who have kept Eberron alive for the past thirteen years. I hope that we will see Eberron officially revived for 5E, but until that time it means a great deal to me that there are still those of you out there who are enjoying the world. My favorite thing about RPGs is the ability to create new stories — and I love that you are out there creating Eberron stories of your own.

At this time, I still have no official news about support for Eberron. I’ll continue to answer questions on this site, but I cannot produce new material here. With this in mind, I am and will be continuing to produce new setting material for my own RPG, Phoenix: Dawn Command. Even if you don’t play Phoenix, my hope is that you may find this material to be useful in your Eberron campaign. The main article I’ve produced is about The Fens, and this follow-up article talks about how you can use the Fens in Eberron.

With that said, there are many people working to keep Eberron alive, and I wanted to call out some of these. I am part of the monthly Manifest Zone podcast; each month we explore a particular aspect of the setting. On Facebook I’m aware of the Eberron Enthusiasts and Sages of Eberron groups, and beyond that The Piazza is the primary Eberron forum I keep an eye on. If you’re into live play, Maze Arcana is a livestream working with Wizards of the Coast, and you can get more Eberron in Role Out.

That’s all I have time to say at the moment, but I’d love to hear more from all of you. What’s your favorite moment from your time with Eberron, or your favorite thing about Eberron itself? What do you want to see in the future?

Meanwhile, here’s the two questions from the party in Peru…

How would you organize a campaign around a party of Dragonmarked characters? What could possibly bring them to work together? 

One obvious answer is the thing that brings all the houses together: The Twelve. This organization serves as a sort of United Nations for the Dragonmarked Houses. It exists to mediate grievances and resolve disputes, but also to unite the houses to accomplish things they couldn’t do alone. The Kundarak vault system – which required the talents and marks of House Orien and House Cannith to create – is a prime example of such cooperation. So, a party of adventurers could easily be elite troubleshooters for the Twelve – nominated by each of their individual houses and dispatched by the Twelve to handle problems or investigate opportunities that matter to all of the houses. Just a few examples of things that could fall into this category…

  • Investigating ancient magic that might be something the houses can use or reverse-engineer, such as evidence of warforged and elemental binding in ancient Xen’drik.
  • Investigating or shutting down operations of House Tarkanan.
  • Investigating a house enclave that has mysteriously gone dark.
  • Recovering valuable treasure from house enclaves in the Mournland.
  • Helping house operations that are threatened – for example, dealing with the Poison Dusk forces threatening a House Tharashk mining operation in Q’barra.
  • Mediating a dispute between two houses.
  • Deal with a house experiment gone wrong – a rogue Cannith construct, Vadalis magebreeding mistake, plague unleashed by Jorasco – without revealing the true nature of the problem to the public.

… And that’s all literally off the top of my head. This provides the PCs with an immediate powerful patron that will always be ready with a new assignment. If you want to complicate things, each of the houses the players are personally tied to could have their own agendas, and players could be torn between their own beliefs, the common goals of the Twelve, and the desires of their house.

A completely different approach would be to focus on a party of adventurers who are all excoriates – the EX-Dragonmarks. This could be unjustified – making them the Dragonmarked equivalent of the A-Team – or they could actively opposed the agendas of the houses they are from. They’re united because they are all outsiders, and the question is whether they are trying to redeem themselves and get back into their houses… or whether they are on an ongoing mission to expose corrupt and illegal activities tied to the Houses, whether these reflect the house as a whole or are the work of a small group of corrupt barons.

There’s three ideas – hopefully that’s enough to get you started.

What is the reach of Zilargo? Does the Trust meddle in other nations if Zilargo’s interests are at stake? 

Absolutely! In my opinion the Trust is one of THE most efficient espionage agencies in Khorvaire. The Zil have always embraced intrigue and cunning over military power as their primary means for affecting change in the world… and with their natural talents for illusion gnomes can be very efficient spies. The Trust doesn’t have the same degree of power or coverage in the Five Nations that it has in Zilargo, but it’s still very efficient. Likewise, the Trust won’t be as blasé about assassination elsewhere as it can be in Zilargo, but it definitely employs assassination when it has to. One of the most dangerous characters in the Sharn: City of Towers sourcebook is Madra Sil Sarin, one of the Trust’s top assassins. Madra has rings of sustenance and invisibility, and communicates with her superiors via telepathic bonds. As a result, she is a ghost: she spends her life in silence and invisibility, moving unseen through the city while waiting for a telepathic call to action.

While agents like Madra are ready to take direct action when it’s called for. the Trust PREFERS to act indirectly. The Zil maxim is Five words can defeat a thousand swords — and the trick is saying the right five words to the proper people. Just as hacking is becoming an increasing concern in modern politics, Zilargo can manipulate things very effectively simply by revealing secrets in the proper place and time. Does Zilargo support the Brelish monarchy or not? Do they support Kaius of Karrnath, or do they want to see rival warlords bring him down? Do they support the theocracy of Thrane, or might they help the monarchy by revealing evidence of corruption within the church?

But to deal with the question: Yes, Zilargo definitely meddles with other nations if their interests are at stake. However, more often than not they will meddle by exposing secrets… doing so in a way that furthers their own agenda, but at the same time, it’s an action that’s hard to trace to Zil actors.

If you’re dealing with PCs who are Zil agents, the most common thing they will be called upon to do is to acquire information – as secrets are the primary weapons in the Zil arsenal.

17 thoughts on “Eberron turns Thirteen!

  1. The very first game of Eberron I played was a detective story in Sharn. My group had just discovered old Film Noir movies and our DM created a gritty who-done-it full of the classic tropes. One of the best games in our group’s memory. — We’ve also played as refugee’s from the mournland, trying to work with the local authorities in Sharn to help our people without loosing their respect for getting too cozy with the foreigners who were being abusive to them. — We have played with almost every faction of the world’s political turmoil and endlessly different types of groups. The rich world has been a wonderful backdrop for adventure as we doge, fight, and make alliances with various factions across the world. You never know what political elite you might accidentally piss off by killing their proxy, or when you might accidentally risk opening a portal to Xoriat. To me, Eberron takes all the best aspects of genres like Film Noir and Cyberpunk, but with a more fully fleshed out rich texture of a modern look back at post WW1 to ground it in an immediate reality. It’s been wonderful playing it throughout the years, and I’m so appreciative of it!

  2. Happy birthday to Eberron, then! I can’t think of a good way to formulate the number in the (13-1) form. Though perhaps (12+1) is also valid depending on how you look at it. Either way, a baker’s dozen of years ain’t too shabby.

  3. Happy birthday, Eberron! Articles like this one remind me of just how tiny a fraction of the storytelling riches of Eberron we got to explore in the campaign I was playing in! A question: When the Trust wants to reveal a secret, how do they tend to go about it? I presume that anonymous letters to the Korranberg Chronilcle are NOT the usual approach. I would guess that PCs might be hired not only to acquire information, but also to reveal it. Example: The Trust, through a third party, hires a group of adventurers to investigate a site or event. In the course of their investigation, the carefully picked adventurers will “accidentally” stumble upon the information which the Trust has planted. If the Trust has picked the right people, the adventurers will promptly disserminate the information, triggering the desired chain reaction, with the Trust appearing to have no connection. Of course, players being what they are, PCs might not react the way anticipated…and then the real fun begins.

    • What you describe is EXACTLY the sort of scenario I’d imagine. The Trust would want it to appear that whatever piece of information is in question just happens to be discovered organically. So if the goal is to expose Merrix’s hidden creation forge, they don’t directly leak “There’s a creation forge here” to the Sharn Inquisitive. Instead, a wealthy Zil collector of ancient goblin artifacts asks a reputable Sharn fixer about acquiring a particular artifact, knowing said artifact should be in a particular part of Sharaat that can only be reached by going through a particular part of the Cogs… and when the adventurers are hired for the job, it will HAPPEN that their route will take them smack into this secret forgehold.

      Or perhaps a Swords of Liberty cell will set off an explosive spellshard, clearly targeting Haydith ir’Wynarn… but that just HAPPENS to publicly injure Merrix’s son in a way that exposes him as an organic warforged.

      But yes: all the better if the player characters are involved, whether as direct catalysts (the information falls into their hands, what do they do with it?) or observers (they’re in the middle of that attack – do they see something that indicates that it WASN’T the Swords of Liberty?).

  4. I have to say, if I ever ran for a group of PCs, all of which were linked to The Twelve, there would have to be an overarching Lords of Dust/Chamber plot in which the PCs learn that the existence of The Twelve/The Dragonmarked Houses will lead to the release of the Overlords/destruction of the world.

  5. I had my favorite Eberron PC in mind long before I ever got to actually play him. When I first started reading through the setting, I was ecstatic to learn about the Beast Form feat, and I developed a Thuranni urban druid whose entire build was around being able to wild shape into a displacer beast. I continued to learn the system and run sessions for friends, but never got a chance to play him. Finally a friend agreed to run an Eberron game through forums, and I was able to bring Silian d’Thuranni to life, and had a blast with the Brat Prince. He was my first Dragonmarked character, and the DM had a lot of fun throwing things his way that he couldn’t just talk or buy his way out of with the weight of his mark.

    As I have continued to delve into research, the campaign setting has surpassed Planescape and Ravenloft as my favorite setting, and most of my players know that my games are set in Eberron by default, and they have loved learning the lore of the world as they play.

    So besides getting to play my favorite PC concept, my favorite Eberron moment would have to be setting up my players to work for the Daughters of Sora Kell (through proxy and disguise) and the looks on their faces when they realized who they were talking to and had just back-sassed. The goblin’s reaction when it dawned on him that it was Sora Katra who had them by the short-and-curlies was priceless.

    Happy birthday to Eberron, and many thanks to you Mr. Baker for always taking the time to answer fan questions and expound upon the amazing world that you have created. Here is hoping that we get to see all of this become canonical with 5E in the near future.

  6. Happy Birthday! Hope the 13th will be a special one (new releases?)!

    As for dragonmarked houses group, I’d like to explore the possible role of some houses with a different agenda.

    House Mediani works on security and counter-espionage. They are in the twelve, but maybe they will sell infos to governments too. It’s too important for their role that the 5 nations can trust them.

    House Orien is loosing positions. I see them as the weaker of all houses at the moment. They could think it’s a good moment for a dangerous alliance: with the inspired, for example, or the cabinet of faces. Or maybe they are not ruthless as Lyrandar because their patron has some noble plan. Or they have a brand new agenda: they are building teleport stations in Xendrik, where travelling is difficoult. Then they will have the monopoly of selling giant antiquities.
    Tharask have a Gatekeeper in their triumvirato. They looks aggressive, but is money their very agenda? I wouldn’t wonder iof they take their prophetic role very seriously.

    Thuranni looks as the perfect evil house, killing for money. But maybe they could have a complitely different role in a campaign. What if they wanted to shape the world? An organization of spies and assassins that aimed to stop the massacre at any cost. Splitting a house, assassinating, stealing secrets… maybe even causing the Mourning? I very like the plots invilving people doing very bad things with good intentions. They could be insiders in the twelve with a very personal agenda and secret connections with whoever you want.

    I think my favourite ones is Vadalis. They can be complitely creepy, almost neutral or (my favourite pick) doing terrible things with good intentions. They belive they will create healthier, long-living humans. They will defy diseases. But all they do have consequences. Maybe they despice the profit oriented houses, since they think their prophetic role makes them different and better.

    A little question about houses (even related to old posts about them): if a mediani hier discover that a thuranni is going to kill another dragonmarked hier/noble, is authorised to kill the thuranni? Having espionage/counter espionage/assassins in private hands brings to strange situations.

    And if I may ask a very little off topic question: is there any article in which you speak of the secret services of Karrnath?

  7. That cake is… amazing. Keith, I imagine you were incredibly touched by that.
    This setting is my favorite of all time. There are some greats- Dark Sun, Planescape, Golarion. But Eberron has always been my personal fav since I found it.
    The fact that so many people are so passionate about it all these years later speaks volumes. Whether it’s for original 3.5, 5E, or Pathfinder, the stories that can be told here are rich.
    I play Pathfinder, not 5E. But I want 5E to release it so I can have more novels and sourcebooks! =P
    Keith Baker, you have been so gracious to all of the fans on the forums and sites. Answering questions, and helping with ideas. You are a true gentleman, in my opinion.
    Happy 13th!

    • Thanks, Michael! I’m most excited about the possibility of the setting being released into the DM’s Guild. I know there are things I’d like to write that would be interesting regardless of which edition people are using, and I’d love to resolve some of the hanging threads of fiction. Hopefully there will be news!

  8. Rhen, changeling bard, would like to thank the creator of Eberron for giving his world and family life. Perhaps a kiss? Don’t worry, Rhen can be a woman if you prefer that…

    ((Out of character, congratulations Keith Baker and thank you for the world that got me playing D&D way back in 3.5! The only thing we need is DMsG support and the fandom will take off on its own!))

  9. Keith, for almost half my life I’ve been telling stories in this amazing world you’ve created. Thank you!

  10. Happy 13th Birthday to Eberron!
    It’s been six months since I started my first Eberron campaign, as well as my first long-ish running campaign! I’ve enjoyed every minute of planning and playing in the setting, and look forward to many other future games with my players!

    My favorite moment that I’ve had thus far was when I set my level 3 players up for the defense of a Xen’Drik artifact aboard a train in a 5e game. The Lords of Dust manipulated a shadowy organization of ex-Aundaran patriots into stealing an arcane capacitor that would *Long Story Short* trigger the prophecy of the demon overlord, Sul Khatesh. One player was almost thunderwaved out of a window, another player pushed an NPC off the train, and the players had to jump from their decoupled car onto the next car up in order to chase the fleeing enemies, to slow down the train, and retrieve the capacitor. Describing it here doesn’t really translate the tension of the moment, but man, was it cool. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to incorporate an airship battle.

    With all of the fun I’m having in Eberron, the only thing that I could ask for is more 5e content than the single Unearthed Arcana article from WOTC.
    I understand that this is out of your control, but the more we voice our support for a great setting, the more likely WOTC is to release Eberron to the DMs Guild, or better yet, create new content!

    For continuing to address questions and offer suggestions, joining a podcast, and being so diligent for your fans and the fans of the world you’ve created, thank you, Keith Baker.

  11. I really miss Eberron. Next to Dragonlance, Eberron was the first world that made me really excited to play d&d again.
    I simply *love* the concept behind Warforged. Every time I played in an Eberron setting I found a different way to build a unique Warforged with 3.5 Rules. my favorite was an Enlightened Fist build with enhanced fists that upped monk dmg plus spell modifiers.

    I digress, my PSN name has been DyingSun for over a decade now.

    I hope they bring Eberron back. If so, I’ll pick up my dusty 5e books and get to playing!

  12. The first Eberron campaign I was involved in was a superhero-flavored urban crimefighting/mystery game involving PCs who were all dragonmarked scions in good standing, each of whom mechanically had a halfbreed template (LA+3) representing some connection of unknown nature to one of the orbiting planes. One of the key longer-term aspects of the campaign was the need to figure out why these strange powers were manifesting in the PCs, as well as figuring a way to balance their circumstances with the demands of their houses; the critical reason for the PCs to have superhero-type identities is to try to avoid becoming a new kind of resource for their houses to exploit. The campaign unfortunately didn’t last all that long, but it was quite memorable and was the start for my halfling seer from House Jorasco, who managed to deliberately fail the Test of Siberys after being tipped off by an involuntary vision (I ended up re-statting her as a Kythri-planetouched for another story).

    Eberron is the only D&D setting that’s really grabbed me at all, and a big part of that is that it is such a good setting for telling very different kinds of stories than seems to be typical for D&D. My sort-of-adventurer-sort-of-scholar PC can be tracking down a murderer in Sharn in one story and collaborating with Zil researchers in Korranberg on an anthropological study in another. One campaign might bring at least one direct conflict requiring lethal force per session; another might only ever involve such combat once, and then only because she had to frighten off a tsucora during a nightmare. Her biggest problem might be the risk that her house finds out she’s been concealing a least dragonmark and draws her deeper into the Healer’s Guild than she wants to be… or perhaps it might be the Dreaming Dark and whatever future crisis her Escaped-Sarlonan-Experiment-Gem-Dragon-Pretending-to-be-Kalashtar mentor was grooming her in anticipation of… (I seem to generate weird backstories.)

    On the subject of connections between houses, my PC had resisted training as a healer based on bad childhood experiences surrounding her family’s traveling practice during the Last War; she’s more of a scholar, so one of the backstory details set up for her is that she has an arrangement to meet her Healer’s Guild obligations through research useful to the guild’s interests, some of which is part of a cross-house arrangement with Sivis, presumably under the auspices of the Twelve. (There’s a running joke in parts of the House that she must have been switched at birth with a gnome.)

    Unrelated to the above, I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on the subject of naturalization in the Five Nations, particularly with regard to those who don’t already have prior citizenship elsewhere. What kind of requirements are typical? How simple or difficult a matter would it tend to be?

    As a totally non-random example, one of my NPCs in a story is an iredar kobold whose tribe was attacked when she was very young, who was enslaved by a goblinoid clan in the Seawall Mountains for many years; eventually she had an opportunity to escape and managed to flee as far as Korranberg. She has no tribe to return to, and living among gnomes seems a small price to pay for the protection of the Trust after all she’s been through. Today she is a student at the Library of Korranberg who earns consistent if begrudging respect through hard work and intellect. But at some point, she had to actually establish herself under the rules of Zil bureaucracy and obtain the rights to those oh-so-important identity papers, and that doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing that comes up enough to have much canon coverage.

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