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.