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.

15 thoughts on “Hacking 5E Eberron

  1. I was planning on implementing Dragonmarks as part of backgrounds, the Least Dragonmark power being the feature ability of that background, and then the other dragonmark powers purchasable as feats (reskinned Magic Initiate is a brilliant idea!).

    Warlock is also getting a lot of mileage as I plan on using that class to represent psionics, just changing the names and effects to a more brain blasty feel ;)

    Love the world you came up with and thanks for continuing to blog your ideas on it!

  2. I too am planning an Eberron campaign in the near future but I’m simply taking the 3.5 & 4e adventures and tweaking them to 5e rules……. I’m not brave enough to design my own just yet.

    Any advise use you could provide on converting the 3.5 & 4e adventures to the 5e rules would be great. I have a problem understanding how to convert a CR 2 encounter in 3.5 to a CR2 encounter in 5e.

    Can’t wait to see where you take Eberron in this new edition!

  3. There were stats for warforged in the 5e playtest packets, although I suppose they’d be a bit underpowered compared to the races in the PHB proper. Improving the Con adjustment to +2, allowing them to take 10 on death saves, and giving them immunity to sleep and fatigue would probably suffice to bring them up to speed.

    • There were stats for warforged in the 5e playtest packets, although I suppose they’d be a bit underpowered compared to the races in the PHB proper.

      A number of the PHB races are less powerful than they were in the playtest. The most critical example of this is the dwarf, who no longer gets a +1 AC bonus… and that’s the big question with the warforged. The scale of AC is dramatically different than in any previous edition, and the value of a racial +1 AC is something I need to consider for a while before I’m comfortable balancing it against other racial attributes. The existing warforged stats are a start – and I agree with the immunities/death saves as logical ways to capture the flavor of warforged – but I need to study the system further before I’m going to have stats I’m 100% satisfied with.

      • The way 5e appears to be handling AC-boosting effects is to give a new equation for calculating your AC—essentially, setting a minimum on how low your AC can go. For instance, Bracers of Defense let you use either 13+Dex or 10+Dex+armour for your AC, whichever is better. (I think 13 is the number, but I don’t have my PHB on me.)

        So maybe warforged get 11+Dex as an option, instead of a straight +1 to AC?

        • The issue with a minimum AC is that it’s only useful to a very specific set of classes. An immediate question here would be how this interacts with Unarmored Defense. If it stacks, suddenly warforged becomes the go-to race for barbarians and monks; if it doesn’t, warforged wizards would be the only characters who ever actually use this benefit. It’s an interesting idea, but it seems like for most classes, it would end up being irrelevant.

          A different option would be to create subraces for warforged reflecting the original Mithral Plating / Adamantine Plating choice of 3.5. So you’d essentially have a scout variant with a dex bonus and default AC in the 12-13 range, and a juggernaut variant with a strength bonus and a default AC in the 16-17 range… though these default ACs would need to count as wearing light or heavy armor for purposes of Unarmored Defense, spellcasting, etc (so you couldn’t cast spells as an adamantine wizard unless you had heavy armor proficiency).

  4. One group took the plunge and started a 5e Eberron game last month, and this far the rules have enabled us to capture the cinematic action and investigative intrigue of the world well. I have one player who really wanted to play a Changeling, so we talked it it over and came up with the following:
    - Proficient with Deception skill
    - Proficient with Wisdom saves
    - +1 to any one ability (a choice to reflect their flexibility)
    - Disguise Self, minus the ability to change height by up to 1′, and with an open-ended duration. This is an at will power, and takes one action to cast.

    We figured we’d go simple at first and capture the most salient aspects of the race mechanically, and leave the rest to the story side of the game. Thus far it’s worked well, although we’ve not focused much in the he fact that he’s a Changeling. Yet.

  5. Great suggestions all around! Thanks to everyone. I was initially thinking of skipping 5e all together, since I really want to stick with Eberron and only Eberron. Given the great reviews and the good suggestions here, I may rethink my strategy. :-)

    Quick question: anyone know any resources to find Eberron-specific gamers. I’m moving soon and would love to hook up with people as passionate about Eb as I am.

  6. I was thinking maybe Dragonmarks could be race restricted magic items. Each tier could require the previous tier and a certain amount of some in-game resource to gain.

  7. For some reason the link to the Eye on Eberron articles doesn’t show the three most recent ones:

    Dragon 416 Rak Tulkhesh, the Rage of War
    Dragon 417 Miron’s Tears
    Dragon 418 The Winter of the World

  8. One way to introduce dragonmarks into 5e I have been thinking about is making them an specialization path open available for all classes. Which means instead of choosing a martial archetype/arcane tradition/domain or whatever you would normally get, you choose to be dragon marked and would get upgrades to your mark at an pace/power level equivalent to the standard customization options you gave up.

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