Dragonmarks 3/28: Roots of Magic

If you’re looking for official Eberron support,the place to go is the Wizards of the Coast website. I recommend that you check out the Dragonshards archive (no subscription required!) and Eye on Eberron (subscription only). A new EoE article just went up today: The Chamber!

While I’m posting links, I’d also like to call out a far more complete list of Eberron resources maintained by Echohawk on ENWorld. It’s definitely worth checking out!

While I can’t provide official Eberron material here, I can at least answer questions and talk about things I do in my personal Eberron campaigns. If you’ve got questions, post them as comments and I’ll add them to the list. Just so you know when to check in, I henceforth declare Wednesday to be Dragonmark day – however, depending on my workload, that may be every other Wednesday! But if there is going to be a Dragonmark  update in a given week, it will happen on Wednesday.

Now, on to some questions!

Did you make Eberron from scratch or was it a home campaign?

The one-page idea that I submitted to the Fantasy Setting Search was entirely original. As it worked its way to the final stages of the search and into actual production, I ended up incorporating ideas from a number of different campaigns I’d run over the years. For example, the Zil gnomes are largely pulled from my high school campaign. Other key ideas came about after the setting had been selected, during the brainstorming sessions with James Wyatt, Bill Slaviscek, Chris Perkins, and other members of the WotC team. For example, the Talenta halflings were always set up as nomads… but it was in those brainstorming sessions that the idea came up that they could have domesticated dinosaurs (my memory of this was that it sprung from James’ son being in a dinosaur phase, but I know other people remember it differently). In any case, there are pieces of it that come from the past, and pieces that were made up at the very end of the process.

What piece of source information is your favorite?

It’s a tough call, because I’m a perfectionist and I’m always looking at books in the light of “We didn’t manage to squeeze in that detail about X.” So it’s hard to find something that I’m ever completely happy with. With that said, in terms of sourcebooks I am pleased with Chapter 1 of the 4E Eberron Campaign Guide; I feel that it sums up a lot of details that were scattered across various 3.5 sourcebooks and articles, and does a better job of capturing some of the underlying themes of the setting (such as the scars left by the Last War) than the 3.5 ECS.

What was the one thing you wanted to put in Eberron that you didn’t get around to doing (as opposed to things left on the cutting room floor)?

There are many things I wish we’d had time to squeeze into the sourcebooks. Many of these aren’t especially vital for playing in the world – which is why they weren’t at the top of the list – but help to add depth to the world, which interests me. One of the core themes of Eberron is the idea of exploring how magic as it exists in D&D would be integrated into society and shape a civilization. Given this, one thing I’d like to have is a stronger sense of the development of magic. Who were the arcane pioneers who shaped magic as we know it today? What were the key discoveries and how did each one impact the world? For example, how long has the Sivis message stone been in use, and who invented it? What’s the history of Zil elemental binding – were there some terrible disasters along the way to the efficient harnessing we have today? What about the war? We know about the warforged and the eternal wands… but what other weapons were developed in the Last War and previous wars?

This isn’t vital, because it doesn’t affect the world as we know it today: it’s a question of how we got to this point. I’d just like to add that level of detail someday.

One thing I did consider when I was thinking about this back before 4E rolled around was the idea that magical components – verbal, somatic, material – are themselves tools that have been developed over time to help spellcasters channel magical energy more effectively. In 3.5, you have metamagic feats (Still Spell, Silent Spell) that allow you to ignore components in exchange for raising the spell slot level of a spell. So… where did these components come from? If magic is treated as a science, did it spring into existence fully formed with a language of verbal and somatic components? Did the first fireball require a ball of guano?

I prefer the idea is that components were themselves innovations. When Aundair was a living person, magic was a raw force that was channeled with force of will and mental discipline. What this meant was that the spells were simply higher level. A magic missile didn’t have verbal or somatic components – and it was a 3rd level spell instead of a 1st level spell. The formulas and gestures were developed over time as tools that allowed people to channel this power more efficiently. By the present day these things have become so engrained into arcane study that people have to receive special training (IE feats) to cast without them. So if your wizard went back in time to the birth of Galifar, people would be astonished at his capacity for casting and curious about his strange words and gestures.

I warned you this wasn’t going to be especially relevant to your current game, right?

That’s all for this week – what do you want to know next?