IFAQ: Transportation

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few relating to transportation in Eberron.

How ubiquitous was the lighting rail before/during the last war? Going from the map, it doesn’t look like it actually connects to all that much.

The lightning rail has been in operation for almost two centuries, and in my opinion it is a widespread, common form of long distance transportation. I feel that the rail lines shown on the map are just a few of the most notable ones, but that more or less any major city in the Five Nations will have a lightning rail station, unless it was damaged in the Last War and is awaiting repair. In my first draft of the adventure Shadows From The Last War the adventurers take a lightning rail from Sharn to Rukhaan Draal, and use a lightning runner (see below) on the abandoned rails in Darguun to reach Rose Quarry. So in short, it’s as common as you want it to be, but in MY Eberron, most significant cities of the Five Nations are connected by lightning rail.

Does Eberron have an equivalent to cars or motorcycles?

Magical land vehicles are uncommon in Eberron. Aside from the lightning rail, House Orien uses horses with the equivalent of horseshoes of speed for couriers and high-speed stagecoaches, but the horse is still the motive force (note that these are a form of dragonmark focus item and require a rider or coachman with the Mark of Passage). My first draft of SotLW had a lightning runner, a stagecoach-sized vehicle that can run on the lightning rail. The Explorer’s Handbook introduced the elemental land cart, which is essentially an automobile, but notes “Most of the few elemental land carts in existence belong to nobles of one of the dragonmarked houses.” House Orien and the Twelve are surely WORKING on new forms of land transportation and you can introduce them into your campaign if you choose, but they aren’t common in canon Eberron.

How far in the future do you pitch House Orien demiplane transportation? Could it be introduced tomorrow or is it still a few years away in your mind?

To clarify: Demiplanes are small pockets of reality that connected to the material plane in Khyber. These connections defy normal space, so you could find an entrance to the daelkyr Belashyrra’s prison demiplane in the Shadow Marches, walk for a mile, and then emerge in Xen’drik — a trip that would have taken days or weeks by other methods. It’s been suggested that House Orien would love to find a way to harness this effect, creating a system of transplanar highways.

The people of the Five Nations know almost nothing about demiplanes. The idea of Orien’s interest assumes that the house has stumbled upon a demiplane, confirmed that it is a spatial shortcut, and wants to make use of it. My assumption is that they are working on creating artificial portals, because most existing portals won’t be much use; they can’t do much with a random portal out in the middle of the Shadow Marches. But they could develop an eldritch machine that uses the power of the Mark of Passage (hence, Orien) to rip a path into a demiplane.

With all that in mind, how close is that to being functional? NOT AT ALL. First consider that the whole thing is highly experimental. Consider also that they need to figure out how to get passengers safely through the demiplane. It may be a shortcut, but you still may have to travel for a mile across Belashyrra’s prison to reach the exit point; how are they doing that?. What dangers might they face? Which reaches the main point: in my Eberron, ORIEN HAS NO IDEA WHAT THEY ARE MESSING WITH. This is entirely like Weyland-Yutani discovering a xenomorph and saying “I’ll bet we can use that.” They don’t KNOW that they are opening portals into, for example, daelkyr prisons or overlord’s hearts. I expect that these efforts will have DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES. So in my campaign, this isn’t a service you can actually expect to WORK any time soon; it’s something that serves to drive ADVENTURES, as adventurers are hired to explore demiplanes, or accompany Orien pathfinders, or to deal with the horrors the house accidentally released into Passage by opening portals best left closed.

What about Brooms of Flying? Exploring Eberron says Aundair used these in the war; have they been adapted for civilian use?

By the rules of Fifth Edition, a broom of flying is an extremely useful item. It’s an uncommon magic item, putting it within the range of Khorvaire’s wide magic. Unlike wings of flying, there’s no time limit on the use of the item, and critically, it doesn’t even require attunement. What’s been suggested is that Aundair used these for elite units and that other nations developed them in smaller quantities—so they aren’t commonplace in civilian life, but they are in the world.

With this in mind, the first question I’d ask is are they brooms? While the core magic item is a broom, I see no logical reason that they should be actual brooms in Eberron; remove the mythology of Earth and there’s no particular reason a broom is associated with flight. So I’d actually call them skystaffs. Keep the same essential shape—a short wooden haft—but remove the bristles, add a seat, and perhaps handles that fold out from the shaft. Essentially, make it a tool clearly designed for its function as opposed to a household item that does something unexpected. I’d then say that while anyone can use one, they require Dexterity checks for tight maneuvers or sustained balance at full speed, unless the rider has proficiency in air vehicles—so anyone CAN use one, but it requires some training to actually use one effectively. As a final element, I’d say that a skystaff is made using soarwood, which is a crucial factor in why there aren’t more of them in service at the moment. The enchantment isn’t that difficult—again, “uncommon” level in terms of its power—but the actual components required to create one are in limited supply, so there aren’t that many around. Having said that, they are most often seen in Aundair, and you’ll certainly see a few in the skies above Fairhaven or darting around Arcanix.

That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for their support and questions.