Dragonmarks: Firearms in Eberron

There are a few questions I’ve been asked time and again over the years, and one of those came up again just recently: How do firearms fit into Eberron? There’s a number of different gunpowder related classes and rules out in the world; Unearthed Arcana even included a version of the artificer with a Gunsmith archetype. So, how do firearms fit into the setting?

The short and simple answer is they don’t. From the very beginning, Eberron was designed as a setting where arcane magic was the foundation of civilization. The core idea is that in Eberron people wouldn’t pursue the development of firearms and gunpowder, because they have a different tool for creating explosions and hurting people at a distance… so they’d refine that magical tool instead of pursuing something entirely different.

But… isn’t another core principle of Eberron If it exists in D&D, there’s a place for it in Eberron? So: there’s a gunslinger class and I’ve got a player who really wants to use it… what do I do with it?

In any situation like this, the most critical question is: WHY do you want to add this thing into Eberron? What is the story you are trying to tell, and do you need to change the world to tell it? Does your story absolutely require the existence of some form of gunpowder analogue… or could you take the same basic idea and reflavor it to work using magical principles instead of gunpowder?

The Wandslinger

The basic principle of Eberron is that people are finding ways to solve the problems we’ve solved with technology by using magic. Instead of using telegraphs or cell phones, they have speaking stones and sending. Thus, the idea that’s most in keeping with the setting is to develop a magical analogue to the firearm. Wands, staves, and rods are tools that can hold and channel mystical power. In third edition, it wasn’t feasible to use wands as personal sidearms; they were too expensive and also entirely disposable, and it was hard to imagine a unit of soldiers equipped with such a tool. But we took steps towards this by introducing the eternal wand, which had fewer restrictions on who could use it and which recharged every day. While statistics were never presented for it, in my novels I also presented the idea of the siege staff, Khorvaire’s answer to artillery. The idea’s simple: if a wand holds a little power and a staff can hold greater power, then a staff made from a tree trunk could hold greater power still, dramatically amplifying the range and radius of a spell effect to fill the same role as cannons in our world.

The later editions of D&D have made casual combat magic easier to use. In fifth edition, a wand is an arcane focus that costs a fraction of the price of a longbow. Such a wand has no inherent power of its own; it channels the power of a spellcaster. Meanwhile, the Magic Initiate feat establishes the idea that you don’t need to be a wizard or warlock to know a cantrip or two. So in the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron we embrace this idea and suggest that over the course of the Last War the nations began training elite arcaneers—essentially, soldiers who gain the Magic Initiate feat and can perform simple combat magic. Because NPCs don’t need to follow exactly the same rules as player characters, I suggest that wandslingers typically only know offensive cantrips (spells that require an attack roll or saving throw), and further that the typical wandslinger needs an arcane focus to perform their magic. Essentially, for a player character a wand is an optional tool; for a wandslinger, it’s a requirement. This is intended both to emphasize that player characters are remarkable, but also to establish that in this world arcane focuses are important tools—that there’s a form of science at work here, and that the “wand technology” is significant.

There’s a few issues with arcane focuses replacing firearms. One of the obvious ones is range: a fire bolt has a range of 120 feet, while a bow can hit an enemy up to 600 feet away; don’t we need a solution that can match that? There’s also the issue that only spellcasters can use the wand, so wouldn’t we have an answer that anyone can use? Addressing the second point first, we do have a solution anyone can use: a bow or crossbow. And anyone CAN learn to use a wand… if they put in the time. Again, the core idea of Eberron is that the magic used by a magewright or a wandslinger is a form of science. Different people may have a special aptitude to different types of spells, just as in our world some people have a talent for a certain type of instrument while others just aren’t very musical. But anyone CAN learn to play an instrument… and in Eberron, anyone could learn to use a wand. On the other hand, they could also put that time and energy into mastering another skill. So Aundair’s elite infantry may be made up of wandslingers, who have the equivalent of Magic Initiate; while Thrane’s elite archers have the equivalent of the Sharpshooter feat, reflecting their specialized training.

So: a basic principle of Eberron’s widespread magic is that many magical tools do have a living component. A siege staff requires a trained person to operate it. And this is why crossbows and arbalests DO still have a place in the world. But remember that here too, these tools can be enhanced by magic. If an Aereni ship uses an arbalest, the bolts could easily be explosive; we’ve also mentioned livewood bolts bound to a dryad, allowing the dryad to manifest on the ship struck by the bolt. Rather than saying “An arbalest is inferior to a cannon, they’d have to have developed cannons,” consider the ways that you could magically enhance an arbalest to match the capabilities of a cannon… even if, like the livewood arbalest, the actual results are very different.

Still, there’s a few valid points. Range is a significant limitation for the battlefield wandslinger. And another thing that bothers me is that in fifth edition there’s no difference between the arcane focuses. Wand, staff, orb… it’s a purely cosmetic choice with no practical effect. Given the idea that these things are tools, I wanted the choice of focus to matter. The Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron includes one set of rules. Here’s a summary of what I’m playing with now. The staff rules are new and largely untested, which is why they aren’t in the WGtE, but you could try them out if your players and DMs agree.

  • A wand, crystal, or orb is used in one hand. This has no inherent impact unless you’re using a special focus (imbued wood, orb of shielding, etc).
  • A rod can be used with one or two hands. If it is used with two hands, the range of any offensive cantrip you cast is increased by 50%. Using a two handed arcane focus meets the somatic requirements of a spell.
  • A staff requires two hands. When casting an offensive cantrip, the standard range is the listed range for the cantrip, but the staff provides a long range equal to four times the listed range: so when using a staff, fire bolt has a standard range of 120 feet and a long range of 480 feet. When casting an offensive cantrip beyond normal range, you have disadvantage on the attack roll and the target has advantage on the saving throw. Using a two handed arcane focus meets the somatic requirements of a spell.

The goal here is to present the wand as a sidearm—short range, easily concealable—with the staff as the analogue to the rifle. A team of Aundairian arcaneers equipped with staves can’t quite match the range of Aundairian archers, but they can come close… and of course the staff doesn’t require ammunition and the damage scales with the user’s skill. Note that these rules specifically apply to “offensive cantrips”—cantrips requiring an attack roll or saving throw. The staff increases the range of fire bolt, but it doesn’t quadruple the range of message.

The basic principle here is simple: rather than say “A cantrip is inferior to a gun, so people would develop guns,” consider how magic might evolve to fill the same niche. We need to kill someone from farther away? Let’s see if we can increase the range of the spell by making a longer wand (IE, a staff). Want a silencer? Perhaps you can buy a ring that goes around the end of a wand or staff and reduces the obvious discharge. Explore magical solutions. With that said, bear in mind that part of presenting magic as a form of science is that magic has the same limitations as science, one of which is that progress comes slowly. Within current lore the idea is that the techniques of the wandslinger only developed over the last thirty years. People are actively working to improve these things and to make better focus items.

So, the first question is whether it’s possible to just reflavor whatever class or element is calling for guns to use a magical alternative. Currently I’m running a campaign in Q’barra that has the flavor of a fantasy western, and so far, I’ve been very happy with how the wandslinging rules fill the gap for firearms. The sheriff relies on sword and bow; the warlock’s a fancy wandslinger with a brace of imbued-wood wands; the innkeeper has a rod behind the bar in case of trouble.

Goblin Gunslingers

So: I would just reflavor a gunslinger class to use wands. But perhaps that doesn’t work. Maybe the mechanics don’t make sense with a wand, or maybe the DM or player really, really wants something that functions more like an actual gunpowder weapon.

There’s a place for everything in Eberron; you just have to find it. If I had a player who really, really wanted to be a gunslinger, I wouldn’t solve this problem by giving firearms to House Cannith or the Five Nations. The core idea is that the Five Nations solve their problems by using arcane magic, not technology. But… what about a society that DOESN’T possess arcane magic? An advanced, militaristic civilization already renowned for its metallurgy and smithing techniques—a civilization that is thus perfecting the mundane arts of war? Those of you who know the setting well may already have guessed who I’m talking about: the goblinoid Heirs of Dhakaan.

Now: I’m not suggesting that the goblins of Darguun—the Ghaal’dar—have guns. And I’m not saying that the Dhakaani had firearms when they fought the Daelkyr. The Heirs of Dhakaan have been in subterranean isolation for thousands of years, and I’m suggesting that some of their clans may have developed this technology during that time. The Kech Volaar study arcane magic, and thus they wouldn’t have firearms. The Kech Sharaat pride themselves on their mastery of melee combat. So I’d introduce the Kech Hashrach, a clan that has developed firearms and artillery. I’d want them to be as surprising and as threatening to Darguun as to the Five Nations, and present this as an entirely alien form of technology—a path of science others haven’t explored at all. Essentially, in clashing with the Kech Hashrach there would be a chance to explore the conflict between magic and technology. So going back to the player character who wants to be a gunslinger, I’d figure out a way that they could have acquired their tools from the Kech Hashrach. Could they have been a slave who learned the ways of the gun before escaping? Would the player be interested in having ties to the clan—in having somehow earned their respect and been inducted into the Kech? Or might they simply have befriended an old goblin sharpshooter who taught them her secrets? Essentially, I’m fine with a single player character having an exotic weapon, but I’d play up the idea that it IS exotic… and that the Cannith artificer doesn’t get why you’re messing around with dangerous explosives when the basic arcane formulas for pyrotechnic magic are well established and quite safe.

Elemental Weapons

If you don’t like the Dhakaani, there’s another path that we’ve mentioned but never fully explored: Elemental weapons. The gnomes of Zilargo are noted for their skill with alchemy and for elemental binding, and we specifically call out that they provided Breland with “elemental weaponry” during the Last War… but we’ve never explained exactly what this is. One possibility is to play up the alchemical side and explore explosive technology. Another is to focus more on the idea of bound elementals; but this would be a way to create a fire-based weapon that’s distinct from a wand.

I don’t have time to explore this concept in detail here, but it’s a path that would allow you to create a sidearm or form of artillery that isn’t based on direct spellcasting, while still engaging with in-world lore. And I could certainly imagine interesting ways to make it distinct from mundane firearms. Imagine a form of canon that fires globes containing small fire elementals; when the weapon strikes, it doesn’t just explode, it unleashes the fire elemental in the midst of your enemies.

Giving this to the Zil and Breland is also another way to differentiate between nations and to shift the power dynamic from the houses. Aundair might have the finest wandslingers, and House Cannith might be the primary source for arcane weapons of mass destruction. But the Zil could be providing Breland with a form of weaponry none of the other nations use… and the Kech Hashach could be emerging from the depths of Khyber with yet another form of unfamiliar weaponry.

So: I personally focus on using magic in place of firearms, but here’s a few alternatives to consider. Have you used firearms in your Eberron? Have you tried out the wandslinger? Share your thoughts below!

Q&A

What class would you use as a wandslinger?

Anyone who can cast an offensive arcane cantrip COULD be a wandslinger. It’s largely a question of style. Your wizard can cast fire bolt. Does he take pride in this? Does he carry a fine wand of Fernian ash on his hip, or a battleworn rod over his shoulder? Or is he a scholar who KNOWS the words to produce fire, but prefers only to use them as a last resort? Essentially: does the character use offensive cantrips? If so, do they use an arcane focus more often than not? If so, do they take some pride in this? If so, that character’s a wandslinger. It doesn’t matter if they’re a sorcerer, wizard, warlock, bard, or just anyone who’s taken Magic Initiate. And again, with NPCs they generally aren’t any class at all; the ONLY magic a typical arcaneer knows is the battle magic they channel through their foci.

Now, there is something I always wanted to ask Keith ever since he first talked about wandslingers, how common were they in the Last War? And how common are they in post-war Khorvaire? Could you be mugged by a thug with a wand in a dark alley?

The short answer is “They’re as rare or as common as you want them to be in your story.” In my Eberron Aundair fielded the first elite arcaneer units in the last 30 years of the war, and they’ve become more common since then. Today I think wand use is common in Aundair, rare in Thrane, and uncommon everywhere else—which is to say, everyone is familiar with the concept of it, people know a wandslinger when they see one, but the city watch are still using crossbows. In my Q’barra campaign, the sheriff uses a bow, but when the slick Tharashk operatives showed up in town, two of them were wandslingers… and again, the innkeeper keeps a rod over the bar. Essentially, wandslinging is definitely new… but sure, you could be mugged by a thug with a wand. But again: in your campaign, it’s as common as you want it to be.

52 thoughts on “Dragonmarks: Firearms in Eberron

  1. I like the ban on technology as it makes sense given the loudness, inaccuracy, clouds of smoke, inability to use them in the rain, problems if the environment is even damp if that gets into your powder, etc…why would anyone bother with firearms? It took 300 years for the flintlock to develop in the 17th century, they didn’t “revolutionize” warfare for several centuries. If I were going to introduce them in a magical world I would want it to be in a society that could not use magic. That could occur among a people who have taboos against “black magic” or a civilization cut off from the rest of the society (either geographically or that developed in a demiplane or the like). Or I suppose you could go the Critical Role route and have some evil power introduce the technology fully evolved. I have myself allowed them when players had their hearts set on them…player engagement is better than setting consistency most of the time.

  2. I would go even simpler. In the real world, gunpowder was discovered accidentally by an alchemist, and its potential as a weapon was only recognized later. I could do an entire campaign around someone accidentally discovering a powder that can be produced easily and cheaply, which duplicated the ability of offensive wands (and some illusions too) but which didn’t require arcane training or a dragonmark… and then having to run for their life as the governments of the Five Nations all try to possess it as a potential ace when the peace breaks down, and houses Cannith and Phiarlan try to suppress it as a threat to their monopolies.

  3. I really like the idea of bound elementals and/or creatures being released from a globe that shatters when it strikes the ground. I can see a mass of fire elementals appearing in the middle of an army’s ranks. I could also see such globes being dropped by aerial warriors thus creating Dresden like effects within an enemy’s city or encampment.

    So, if I am reading your post correctly, the warriors are trained in the cantrip and the wand/rod/staff is just part of the material requirement to cast the spell. I like that idea a lot. Extending the range makes perfect sense.

    Looking forward to further ideas to make the armies of the five nations more fantasiful. Thanks.

  4. Just want to briefly say how much I respect you saying “I don’t personally do or like this, but here’s an alternative and a few options for doing it anyway.” You’re just a nice guy! I appreciate it a lot!

  5. In an upcoming campaign I’m designing, the players will be in New Cyre–a dusty frontier town, newly established, sandwiched near wild goblins and warforged horrors from the Mournland. I’m even establishing an under-construction lightning rail, and a villainous Orien tychoon who had his planned route stolen by Breland and wants to chase the Cyrans out.

    The only thing I needed to complete the Western image was guns. Ive settled on Eternal Wands, but because of the above issues of competing with weapons, I flavored them as such:

    They’re essentially arcane crossbows that shoot elemental damage, and can be used by anyone with Martial ranged weapon proficiency or the ability to cast spells. So you get both wizards and rangers equipping these things. But also, it means that NPC Joe Lamplighter with the Light spell and nothing else can have a background of being a soldier in the Last War.

    I also flavored them with very minor cantrip effects. E.g. cold damage can target water to freeze it, fire damage can ignite, thunder can be heard from 300 ft away… I forget lightning.

    I like your idea of making these devices enhance cantrip ranges though. It adds that little extra punch to keep wizards interested beyond level 4 when their cantrips become flat better.

    I think I also renamed them to make them punchier to say? Spellcannon? I havent decided on that firmly, and the etymology is weird in a world without cannons but I feel it rolls off the tongue better, and is analogous to hand cannon.

    It might seem like an extreme deviation but when I start this campaign I really want the introduction of Eternal Wands to be as shattering in Eberron’s version of th Old West as six shooters and rifles were to ours… Any punk with a high school level knowledge of cantrips can use an Eternal Want of Fire, and go on to be a bandit…

  6. I have used firearms in Eberron, but they were specifically introduced as an alien element. A traveler from another plane forged them for the party members as payment for completing a difficult quest. As a result, they had no way to replicate either the weapon or the ammunition on Eberron, and thus were wholly dependent on this NPCs good graces to continue using the firearms. (Strangely, none of them thought to hire Zil gnomes or House Cannith artificers to try reverse-engineering the guns.) When higher levels rolled around (and enough of the guns had been lost or destroyed), they lost interest and shifted to magical solutions instead.

  7. I Was wondering what class would you use as a wandslinger, I understand the concept of just having the Magic Initiate feat gives any class the ability to be a wandslinger, but why would a fighter take the Magic Initiate feat?

    • I’ve added my answer to the first question end of the main post. As to the second, no one is forcing the fighter to take Magic Initiate; there’s no reason for them to take it unless they see it as an advantage. If I wanted to play a wandslinging fighter I’d probably do it by taking a level of warlock. But as someone suggests in another post, another option would be for someone to create a wandslinging archetype for a fighter.

      • Thanks for replying, I was just wondering what class would be optional for a wandslinger, something that would improve the wandslingers use of the wands. An Archetype for a wandslinging would be cool, I might look into it.

        • IMO Eldritch Knight Fighter, and Hexblade Warlock, are the best options. No one gets mileage outta cantrips like the Hexblade Warlock does with Eldritch Blast.

      • In the meantime, a Eldritch Knight does a good job of it.

        Especially if you work out a special wand that can shoot a simple 1d8+int damage effect with a 30/60ft range, as a ranged weapon attack. Model it after the level 1 version of a cantrip, but with weapon style range, and adding Int to Damage.

        Then, the level 7 Eldritch Knight can shoot a cantrip off, and offhand a wand attack using their level 7 class feature. Makes a really cool two-wand wandslinger.

        And, before level 7, you can just use the Attack Action to shoot twice with your wand.

  8. Great article. In my campaign, I used mundane explosives for a Mournborn-driven terrorist plot in Sharn. My basic idea was that mundane materials would be less likely to activate wards and Medani detection. But the production of the materials was fairly crude and required a lot of smuggling to stay under the radar. The party’s artificer juryrigged this material into a gun she was creating, so it integrated into the story quite well.

  9. AWESOME! Finally an article dedicated to the coolest thing ever! WANDSLINGERS!

    Now, there is something I always wanted to ask Keith ever since he first talked about wandslingers, how common were they in the Last War? And how common are they in post-war Khorvaire? Could you be mugged by a thug with a wand in a dark alley?

  10. Great article (not that that’s a surprise)!
    Introducing guns has never been something I’ve been hugely interested in, but I’ve been thinking about a campaign centering around the political/military conflict among the goblins in Darguun.
    And I’m now strongly considering if the Kech Hashrach would make an interesting element in that campaign… excellent food for thought!

  11. Starting from the premise that beneath the magic this is still a world of mundane physics and chemical reactions, so that of course mundane substances exist that behave in this way without an alchemist coming in and making them do so by magic: Guns are a complicated thing that requires harnessing a dangerous, volatile substance in a particular way, and would require a lot of refinement to be particularly useful. Chemical explosives more generally, on the other hand, are a lot simpler to produce. I could easily see crude explosives existing simply because people had discovered by accident that certain substances were volatile and would explode in some circumstances. In other words, whether or not there are *guns* per se, there are probably *bombs*.

    The usefulness of explosives for situations like mining is obvious. Even if there is a caster or wand available, a chemical (or alchemical) substance that exploded when ignited could drastically amplify the effects of a simple fire spell. In situations calling for combat, the idea comes to mind of crafting a small, rudimentary bomb that could be thrown into the fray, and then set off with a cantrip. In such a case, I would tend to assume that there are *both* chemical and alchemical versions; the alchemical version is of course more powerful, and probably preferred when available, but a purely chemical version still *exists* and is the underpinnings\ of the enhanced, alchemical version. Would you use the alchemical version if you have it? Probably. Could you improvise with just the chemical version if you had it? Absolutely.

    On a side note: One corollary to the notion that there are people out there with a particular affinity and talent for magic is that there are also people out there with a particular deficit. It may be rare, but there are probably a few individuals who just can’t cut it as a magewright for one reason or another because they lack even *normal* magical potential. Such a person could still, of course, use a wand through a skill like Use Magic Device (I’m still mostly familiar with 3.x so excuse anything that doesn’t quite fit 5e), but overall magic would be something a bit beyond their reach. I doubt this is common enough for there to be a significant societal concern about it, but it could account for a few individuals here and there having a more than idle interest in what can be done without magic.

    • There are probably a few individuals who just can’t cut it as a magewright for one reason or another because they lack even *normal* magical potential…

      Absolutely, and when that occurs on a widespread cultural level, that’s where you end up with the Kech Hashrach. But within the Five Nations, consider that these people COULD use enchanted crossbows. The wand/staff tool requires magical talent; but the enchanted mundane weapon doesn’t, and I’d rather consider how such a mundane weapon could be enhanced magically—how Cannith would create a BETTER arcane crossbow that anyone could use—then to have them pursue a different branch of science. It’s what I was saying with the Aereni arbalest; I’d rather think about how magic could make an arbalest that is a deadly ship-to-ship weapon rather than having them give up on the arbalest and make a cannon.

      (This isn’t an argument against your main points, which make sense – just another thing to consider.)

    • I would add to the idea of a combat bomb intended to be set off with a Fire Bolt that it would probably look a bit different from something of that nature on Earth. I picture such a thing as having a large number of very short, quick-burning fuses distributed across its surface, because just making the whole outer casing flammable would mean loss of compression by the time the fire ignited the volatile core. It would also be sized for use in a sling. The idea would’ve caught on in the first place because it’s a lot easier to train someone to use Fire Bolt and shoot a small target than it is to train them sufficiently to cast Fireball.

  12. The subject of firearms brings up an analogue to cantrips that does not really seem to exist currently. For any one of us who felt they needed a gun in order to feed/defend themselves, there are a lot of considerations such as capacity, lethality, weight, size, etc. a little .22 might be great for someone to carry in their purse, but worthless beyond the noise for dealing with wild animals. Someone who has a lot of problems with snakes on their land might want a small shotgun. Someone who needs to survive the red zone in iraq might want an m4 with an armored humvee & roof mounted 50 cal.. but all of those things are useless for a hunter looking to feed their family. The gun you use to hunt birds will only make a deer scared & is just going to anger a bear. The gun you need for a deer is going to make ground duck against birds & probably still not injure a bear enough to kill it while all your limbs are still attached. Meanwhile the gun you need for that bear is massive overkill for a deer, duck, snake/rat problem, or personal defense.

    With that said, the current crop of 5e cantrips all seem to fall somewhere between a good hunting rifle, elephant gun, m4, or just 50 cal. Someone who just wants to know they have a big stick ready if they need it but doesn’t want to go to jail or deal with the hassles resulting from killing a simple mugger might want a cantrip like a ray of frost with a greater emphases on the debuff than the damage or a weakened version of an actual spell in cantrip form. so the TL;DR question is, have you given any thought to cantrips that might fall into other more common normal civilian type use cases? Specifically what those might look like & what if any alternate ways of learning than magic initiate/aberrant mark or just replacing the very limited class based cantrip slots?

    • My 12 guage is good for small birds (7.5 or 8 shot), rabbits (6 shot), turkeys (4 shot), deer (000 to #4 buck) or bear (rifled slug). It is the type of shell used, not the gun. I used to hunt deer with my 410 and a slug or #4 buck. So, you tailor the shell to the quarry.

    • In that regard, one consideration that comes to mind with the way a lot of spells/cantrips scale with level is that it should be possible to fine-tune casting by not using one’s full power; there’s no obvious reason why a level 5 caster should necessarily be destroying something that a level 1 caster could merely damage, if that’s what’s aimed for. While I haven’t seen any explicit rules for it, my general thought is that it should be possible to downscale the power of any spell at will to the damage it would have when cast by someone of the minimum level to be able to cast.

      On the subject of precision through decreased power, it also occurs that there might be specialized sorts of arcane foci for decreasing the power of spells below what is normally possible. There’s a big difference between what you’d want out of a Fireball spell in combat versus what might be useful in a laboratory setting, and a micro-Fireball could have some interesting implications.

  13. When I had a player who wanted to use guns in Eberron, I came up with something similar to what you suggest about Elemental Weapons. My idea for Dragonshard Firearms was that the bullets were bits of Khyber shard with tiny fire elementals bound inside. A mechanical shock releases the elemental which flings the shard with great force. Games-rules wise, they work just like the Renaissance-era firearms listed in the 5E DMG, but I set the price of bullets 10 times higher (3gp per), reasoning that they are relatively new and somewhat difficult to efficiently mass produce. I added a fun (for me as DM, anyway) twist that a critical hit might destroy the weapon, damage the user, or free the elemental to attack.

      • I interpreted OP’s post as the gunslinger was on the receiving end of a critical hit, that it could hit the gun rather then a critical miss causing a misfire.

    • I was thinking of something a bit different. Instead of the bullets containing the bound elementals, the guns themselves use bound elementals to generate the effect.

      One type would use a bound earth elemental to create small bits of stone and either a bound fire or air elemental as propellant and, potentially, a way to heat the stone. Another may use a bound fire elemental to create bits of fire and a bound air elemental to contain he fire until it impacts a target. The possibilities are pretty endless.

      In that case, the weapon is likely exceptionally expensive, but requires relatively little in the way of maintenance. It’s not entirely dissimilar from a magic crossbow, but it has a different flavor to it.

      Of course, I like the idea of mundane chemistry widely applied because it offers a strong counterpoint to the martial capability of the Dragonmarked houses.

  14. Thanks for the great article!
    It came just at the right time, as I am currently running your Curtain Call adventure (it was supposed to be a one-evening event, but the players keep exploring Sharn in the most unpredictable ways, elongating the story), and one of the players wants to be a gunslinger when he “grows up”. So I got to thinking how to adapt Mercer’s Gunslinger to the setting, remembering what you wrote last time when asked about firearms. It’s great that you took the time to elaborate on that in this article (I love the Dhakaani gunsmiths idea).
    I understand my player’s motivation – there’s something inherently cool about the roar of a gun, the acrid smell of gunpowder smoke and the gunslingers silhouette, but I still want to keep the spirit of Eberron’s “technology through magic” with the adaptation. Another problem is that he is, currently, a lowly criminal from the depths of Dura, but I will deal with that in time.

    What do you think about powdered dragonshards as magical equivalent of gunpowder? Bullets would essentially be tiny cartridges of dragondust, fed into a experimental wand/gun device (perhaps even designed by Cannith or Zil engineers), that uses up the energy stored within them to release a blast of magic, releasing the spent casing after the shot. Casings could perhaps be refilled for repeated use, and the experimental technology would explain misfiring.

    Thanks in advance and keep up the great work!

  15. Forgive me if I’m misrepresenting your argument, but one of the reasons Eberron doesn’t have firearms is because a magical ranged weapon like a crossbow is just as good as a firearm, yes?

    Couldn’t the argument be made that an enchanted firearm is even better than an enchanted crossbow? Why don’t enchanted firearms factor into the equation at all, other than flavor? You have a crossbow that shoots dryads? Can’t we get a cannon that shoots Galeb Duhrs?

    Eberron, like the real world, features mass armies and concepts of total war and conscription. Wars were fought by dumb peasant boys pressed into service, given quick training and told to kill. In real life, that is why firearms proliferated in the late middle ages and early modern era: by all accounts a longbowman was better than an arquebusier, but you could train fifty arquebusiers in the time you could train a longbowman and they’d be roughly as lethal.

    Considering that real-life gunpowder was invented by Chinese alchemists attempting to find an elixir of life, a pretty damn fantastical reason, I don’t really see why the development of gunpowder is seen as antithetical to a high magic setting. And once you have gunpowder, why wouldn’t arcanists and artificers experiment with its properties and create magical weapons with it?

    • The case he was making was that even if someone stumbled onto gunpowder, the leap to weaponizing would be less obvious since a means of firing projectiles currently exists. Part of why flight took so long for us to achieve is because, for a long time, we tried to model flying vehicles off of bird wings.

      A point not made in the article is that Eberron is book-ended into a specific slice of the world’s history. Gunpowder might someday augment wands. Someday wings might make airships more effective. In the era the setting is in, people just haven’t made those jumps. That is unless you want them to have.

      • Gunpowder might someday augment wands. Someday wings might make airships more effective. In the era the setting is in, people just haven’t made those jumps. That is unless you want them to have.

        Exactly correct. It’s not that gunpowder is anathema to fantasy, as shown by Iron Kingdoms, CR’s gunslinger, etc. We’re having this conversation because some people really enjoy firearms in their fantasy. But Eberron was designed from the start with an awareness of those things and a decision to explore a different path. It’s not that it’s IMPOSSIBLE to imagine the two existing side by side; it’s that with Eberron we decided to say “For the moment, people have looked at the weird exploding powder those gnome artificers have come up with and decided to stick with their reliable fireball formulas.”

        Basically, there are a lot of fantasy-AND-tech settings out there, from Shadowrun to Arcanum to Iron Kingdoms to Torchlight to whatever. In Eberron we wanted to encourage people to think about a different path: to consider a magical alternative to the gun.

        But again, that doesn’t mean that firearms couldn’t exist or that YOU shouldn’t use them; it’s why you won’t see cannons in canon material.

  16. This is perhaps tangentially related to the main topic; I’m sorry if it ranges too far afield. In Eberron, “magic is a science” (a sentiment with which my artificer character would wholeheartedly agree!) But how likely is it that mundane basic science would develop? Applied science, sure: agriculture, metallurgy, etc. But basic phyics, chemistry, biology? Consider: Would a Galifarian Isaac Newton be able to formulate a law of universal gravitation based on the behavior of the moons of Eberron? Would a Zil Gelileo even bother with dropping weights from the Leaning Tower of Korranberg in a world with soarwood and monks who can slow fall at will? Would an Aundairian Gregor Mendel ever bother crossbreeding peas in a world with changelings? More generally, in a world where gifted individual can affect the behavior of objects with an effort of will, would reproducible mundane experimentation evolve into the scientific method? I have long asumed that the existence of real magic would tend to stifle mundane science and technology in their infancy. Opinions, anyone?

    • Honestly, to stifle science in its infancy, one would have to not merely have magic, but to NOT have curiosity or critical thinking. Not to mention, studying mundane sciences would be important to spell development if nothing else; how do you hack a reality whose default behavior no one understands on a basic level?

      I tend to assume that Eberron has a number of mundane scientific and technological advances that one doesn’t normally assume are there in D&D. There aren’t steam engines because there’s elemental binding which is more versatile, but there is clockwork because it’s easier and more dragonshard-efficient to enchant one part to move at one speed than three parts to move at different speeds. Printing presses have existed for long enough that libraries have grown enough for the card catalog to be invented. Normal D&D has spyglasses; Eberron I picture as having actual telescopes and microscopes, some even enchanted with detection spells. Germ theory of disease is known. House Sivis is probably responsible for dictionaries having come to exist hundreds of years “early”.

      There are certainly things that have existed for a while on Earth that I figure wouldn’t exist in Eberron and don’t have magical stand-ins, though. Industrialized sheet metal (and thus tin cans) would be one example. Ambulances would be another, because House Jorasco is heartless swine.

      • Cogent arguments, all. Certainly, there is a lot of technology of basic kinds floating around in canonical Eberron. Besides the ones you mentioned, there are sailing ships, basic machines (wheel, lever, pulley, etc.) Scientific theory to explain phenomena would be harder in the presence of magic, I think. But a lot of theory develops by making approximations, so perhaps Eberronian scientists do the same thing. Galileo observes that objects of different masses fall at the same speed (with the same acceleration)…if you ignore air resistance. Newton’s law of universal gravitation wooks…so long as you aren’t working on the scales of mass, speed or time where relativity kicks in. So, perhaps in Eberron, the local Galileo can run the same experiments “ignoring magic”. Eberronian Kepler, though, probably gave up and is leaving the orbits of the moons to students of the planes!

        • D&D magic is pretty scientific though. A fireball spell will always create a 20 foot sphere up to 150 feet away that does 8d6 fire damage; it doesn’t sometimes create a 30 foot sphere or do cold damage, and even if it DID there’d be rules behind that phenomenon. Out-of-universe, that’s because the rules of D&D are made up FIRST and then the narrative is woven around them but, uh… when you think about it, that’s how reality is too. The rules of physics predate humanity, science and our ability to observe and record them, but we still do so. In Eberron, magic is just integrated into science in the same way we integrate electromagnetism and thermodynamics into it.

          • True, but, especially in Eberron 3.5, a lot of the effects of magic ARE mutable, if the caster/arificer has the appropriate matagmagic feat or infusion at their dispoosal. My aritficer can take a fireball wand and, by application of the appropriate ointment AT WILL turn it inot a cold ball wand, or thunder ball wand, or whatever energy he chooses. D&D magic, especially in Eberron, is logical, but since it bends to the will of sentients, its laws are not independent of the experimenter in the same way Terran physics is. Although…come ot think of it…quantum physics has a lot of experiments that depend on how you set up the experiment: wave/particle duality, Schrodinger’s cat, etc. Hmmm….

          • My aritficer can take a fireball wand and, by application of the appropriate ointment AT WILL turn it inot a cold ball wand, or thunder ball wand, or whatever energy he chooses. D&D magic, especially in Eberron, is logical, but since it bends to the will of sentients…

            But that’s exactly the point. BY APPLICATION OF THE APPROPRIATE OINTMENT. Failing that, if the spell has somatic or verbal components, we can assume that those are altered to account for the adjustment. The rules don’t MAKE us think about the science. They just say “The spell works, and you have to be able to talk and move your hands to do it.” That’s where it’s up to us to add the story; and in MY story verbal and somatic components MEAN something.

            Though again, this is about the wizard and the artificer. The Sorcerer may well be bending the laws of physics with will alone. Magic CAN work that way. But that’s not the form of magic upon with civilization is based.

      • Magic in Eberron is like a computer program…put in command, get result. In a lot of ways, they’ve likely skipped some of the early scientific endeavors and moved more closely to where we are today. They’re looking for new things to do with their computer program and investigating what that computer program can tell them about other avenues of investigation.

    • An additional thought on your original point: if anything, I see our own world as the one where the development of science itself was held back. None of Eberron’s religions insist that major things easily disproven are true and that to even question such assertions is heresy. That, to my mind, has a bigger impact on whether people would pursue science or not than the mere presence of an additional layer of exploitable laws.

    • I think that cross breeding peas and mage breeding animals would have something in common. For all of those people without access to magic, selective breeding would still be worth pursuing.

  17. Earlier today I got into a discussion online about the future of Eberron as it continues to progress it’s technology. The question of whether guns (magically enhanced of course) would eventually replace wands or if wands would improve to the point that they would essentially “be” guns was part of it.

    Given that current Eberron seems to have equivalent (though magically based) technology equivalent to post WW1 Earth, my thought was that in a 100 years, Eberron would be comparable to the modern day Earth but with advanced communication stones in the place of smartphones, wands anyone can use like we use guns, the dragonmarked houses evolved into mega-corps, most people working inside of office buildings giving information to specially trained Modron’s all day long, etc.

    I know of course you encourage people to come up with their own campaigns and stories but I was curious if you had ever considered, or heard of, anyone running an “Eberron: 1098” game where Eberron’s magic has reached (if not surpassed) modern Earth technology and if so what such a world would look like and the best ruleset (Shadowrun, GURPS, etc.) you would base such a homebrew on?

    • my thought was that in a 100 years, Eberron would be comparable to the modern day Earth but with advanced communication stones in the place of smartphones, wands anyone can use like we use guns, the dragonmarked houses evolved into mega-corps, most people working inside of office buildings giving information to specially trained Modron’s all day long, etc.

      This is the path I’d go. This is the direction eternal wands were moving in: both rechargeable and easier to use – moving towards wands anyone could use.

      I’ve thought about doing an Eberron +100 thing for the DM’s GUild, just to explore the idea… but it’s not at the top of my list.

  18. I’m perfectly fine with the idea that guns aren’t popular on Eberron – after all, early guns WERE impractical except for demolishing people in plate, and being hella scary. Wet wands can still cast fireball!

    But to say that the chemical reaction just doesn’t work that way? That seems weird, considering how much emphasis is put into alchemical products.

    Another example – in Full Metal Alchemist (Which I think is VERY close in tone to Eberron, storywise) science as we know it works, but access to Alchemy just makes it economically unnecessary until you start needing things in quantities that a single alchemist (or magewright) can’t handle.

    • But to say that the chemical reaction just doesn’t work that way?

      Is anyone saying that? In this article I call out the Kech Hashrach as a force who could be using such weapons. My point is that people pursue different methods – not that our methods are impossible.

      • Sorry, I think I mixed this article up with a previous one where you called out the possibility that “Maybe that particular reaction just doesn’t work in eberron”.

  19. I actually got into a discussion similar to this online earlier today. We were talking about what the technology in Eberron’s future would be like, and the idea of whether or not magicaly enhanced guns would show up or if instead wands would improve to the point they essentially were guns came up.

    My view is that since 998 Eberron seems to have the equivalent technology of post WW1 Earth (though magic based) that in 100 years Eberron would have magic that replicates the technology of modern day Earth. I imagine that Eberron in 1098 most people would have magical “comms” that work just like current smartphones, even to being able to browse a magic based internet, wands are basically firearms, the dragonmarked houses have spread across the entire world to become mega-corps, and most people go to work in office buildings providing information to specially trained Modrons to process.

    I know Keith encourages us to come up with our own stories and campaigns, but I was wondering if he’s thought about Eberron’s in-universe future and if so what he thinks an “Eberron: 1098” campaign would look like. Related to this, what kind of ruleset he’d base such a homebrew on? Would it be advanced but dark and gritty like Shadowrun? A “realistic” setting like D20 modern or Modern GURPS? Or even skyrocket to almost space opera setting similar to Star Wars or Star Trek?

    • My own assumptions concerning Eberron’s tech are that they’re overall more like the 1800s by default, minus any heavily industrialized or heavily “20th Century-flavored” portions, plus anything 20th Century that’s unusually easy to replicate by magic (yes, you can buy a flashlight, that’s just a Continual Flame set in a specific chassis) or really only that new by accident (baking mixes are a House Ghallanda secret, crayons are among waxmakers’ products and you can buy some for a few cp). Were I to advance the setting 100 years personally, I’d probably advance most tech accordingly, possibly with a few outliers depending on other ideas for the campaign.

      Machines based on the binding of multiple types of elementals would help bring in the equivalent of modern industrialization — say, a sheet metal processor that involves bound fire, earth, AND water or ice elementals. Techniques for non-simultaneous group ritual casting would lead to magical assembly lines, either inspiring or inspired by the concept of mundane ones.

      House Orien would undoubtedly have buses — smaller group vehicles free from the bounds of a track and suited to traversing the streets. As for whether there’d also be cars, that depends on whether the monopolistic forces that are the Dragonmarked Houses have been sufficiently challenged — or, alternately, grown more stifling.

      Computer-like devices would not yet be as powerful as today’s smartphones nor networked in my own take on 1098 YK. I’d lean more towards the idea of 1980s-PC-equivalent, breadbox-sized adaptable personal devices, typically capable of supporting only one simple palm-sized “focus attachment” (computer program equivalent embedded in more-permanent floppy disk equivalent) at a time — though due to their magical nature, some programs too powerful for a 1980s computer would be simpler to accomplish (like video based on illusion principles). Governments and other important clients might have larger, desk-sized models that can support multitasking simple programs and/or running complex programs. Of course, since there’re already artificial intelligences in Eberron, the ideas wouldn’t be to create an AI within these “APDs”, but to create APD-inspired attachments for warforged…

      Of course, just because there aren’t smartphones doesn’t mean there aren’t cellphones. Indeed, “landlines” as we call them today would never have existed; there’d simply be a continent-wide communications grid that House Sivis runs and can remotely attach and detach specific handheld speaking devices from. When your bills to Sivis are up-to-date, you just speak the name and hometown of another paying customer to make their device chime and hopefully start a conversation with them. You could even compel them to answer for an extra charge at the end of the month, though it’s likely not to work if they’re in a life-or-death or similarly tense and urgent situation…

      Of course, a lot of the details would depend on the fate of House Cannith. Does it reunite and become a powerhouse shaping industry again? Reorganize formally into three competing Houses? Fail, and its secrets salvaged and distributed as best society can manage? Fail, and its secrets gobbled up by their nearest competitors, the gnomes? What ever became of the secrets of warforged creation forges in particular?

      • Pardon my replying to myself here, but minutes after posting I thought of what a computer printer equivalent might look like, and the principle might well be revolutionary in other ways.

        Moveable type is old news in 1098 YK, though the old tech still exists if that’s all you can afford. Instead, transmutive type is the wave of the future. Through the combined efforts of a small earth elemental and an even smaller water elemental, transmutive type involves an unglazed ceramic-like substance changing shape and acquiring a layer of ink on the raised portions depending on input fed to the device in various ways (transmitted from an APD to act as a “printer”, placed directly upon the device to act as a “copier”, even sent between Sivis-mark-specialized versions to act as “fax machines”). Through simple stamping or rolling, the transmutive type press makes a copy instantly, and can do so repeatedly or instantly change to a new form to print a whole different page.

  20. In warhammer the race using fireweappns and war machines is mainly dwarves. They are natural born engeneers and not so talented for magic. Could mror holds hide for some reason a 1600 technology?

  21. As always, when I have a question on Eberron, I come here to see it was already answered. How weird is that?

    While I’m not a HUGE fan of firearms, I won’t lie that during the lull in Eberron material and support, I wandered over to Iron Kingdoms and fell in love with their Steam/Warjacks and (often) single shot guns. I’d love to see both in my Eberron, even if they were “modified” for a more arcane aspect.

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