IFAQ: 5N Fleets, Rune Arms, and the Next War

October was a busy month, between Threshold, Eberron Confidential, and my many non-Eberron projects. As a result, I have a backlog of interesting questions from my Patreon supporters; here’s a few of them.

How strong are the naval traditions of each of the Five Nations, and which one would have the strongest navy?

In considering this, keep in mind that the existing maps of Khorvaire do a poor job of showing rivers, and there are considerably more rivers and lakes than have been called out. Having said that, even with what we have seen keep in mind that during the Last War these rivers and lakes were likely more significant than sea travel. Scion’s Sound is a lengthy border that connected all of the Five Nations except Breland. Lake Galifar is a massive body of water that creates a front between Breland and Aundair, and fishing and shipping along Lake Galifar has always been an important part of life in Aundair. Beyond this, Karrnath was the primary seat of Galifar’s navy in the north—keeping watch on the Lhazaar Principalities—while Sharn was the main point of trade between Galifar and Stormreach. In general, though, Galifar had no need of a significant militarized navy. The Lhazaar Principalities didn’t present a united threat; the bulk of commercial trade was handled by House Lyrandar; and Galifar wasn’t especially devoted to intercontinental trade or exploration.

So when the Last War began, as with many elements of Galifar, people who’d served the united kingdom pulled back to their nations. So one question is who were the common sailors of Galifar? Karrnath provided most of the soldiers of Galifar; was there a nation that provided the majority of the sailors? Yes, and that nation was Aundair. While all of the nations had their coastal fishing trade, Aundair had two key factors: the central role of Lake Galifar and the presence of House Lyrandar. The Windwright’s Guild has its home in Aundair, and Aundair was always home to the largest shipyards and trade schools of the Windwright’s Guild.

So Aundair has always had the greatest expertise. However, Karrnath had the most significant force of warships in service as the war began, which gave it an early edge. Breland—which had a strong naval tradition based on the trade across the Thunder Sea and ties to the expert shipwrights of Zilargo—was able to quickly get up to speed.

As the war progressed, the naval forces of each nation evolved to reflect their nation strengths. Aundair generally had the best sailors, and warships well-outfitted with arcane weaponry and defenses. Karrnath had fewer ships, but relied on its exceptional marines. By the end of the war, Breland had a significant fleet, employing Zil elemental and alchemical weaponry. Cyre never had an especially strong fleet, but it generally had the cutting edge of Cannith developments; my novel The Fading Dream includes a Cannith breacher, an aquatic construct designed to attack ships from below.

What are your thoughts on Thrane’s role in Scion’s Sound? I feel like Thrane’s Navy is not only an opportunity to expand on how important Scion’s Sound was to Galifar, but also I feel like Thrane could use some more interesting facets to it.

Thrane definitely had was to exert its power over Scions Sound, but that wasn’t tied to its SHIPS. Thrane brought two unique elements to the Scion line. The first were lantern posts, lighthouse-like structures burning with silver flame; manned by devout priests, these towers could blast vessels that drew too close with bolts of radiant fire. Their second advantage was their air force. To the best of my knowledge, Thrane is the only nation canonically called out as conducting aerial bombardment. Through their wyvern cavalry and other tools, Thrane had air superiority over the Sound; they didn’t need to match Karrnathi ships on the water if they could destroy them from above.

So yes, Thrane had a significant role in Scion’s Sound and they had ships, but their ships weren’t the source of their power.

Besides Thaliost, what are the other ‘hot spots’ of Khorvaire that could trigger a new large scale war similar to the last war?

You’re not going to see a new large scale war until there’s an answer to the Mourning. The Mourning is, essentially, the equivalent of the nuclear deterrent in our world. And entire country was destroyed in a day, and one of the dominant theory is that it was caused by the cumulative effect of war magics used in the Last War — that the world could be a mystical powderkeg, and it could be that one barrage of siege staffs is all it would take to trigger another Mourning and destroy Breland. Another possibility is that it was an experimental weapon, in which case who built it and could they use it again? It is this fear that holds the great powers of Khorvaire in check, and they won’t risk a large scale conflict until it’s resolved. So until then, the threat is about SMALL conflicts. Thaliost is one example. The Eldeen Reaches is another; will Aundair seek to reclaim the eastern Reaches? Droaam and Breland is another potential hotspot. Valenar is actively provoking its neighbors and is another strong contender. The Heirs of Dhakaan could try to seize control of Darguun…. assuming the Ghaal’dar don’t fall into civil war when Haruuc dies. You could also see an uprising in Breland spearheaded by the Swords of Liberty when Boranel dies, or have Karrnathi warlords rise up against Kaius.

Assuming you’re set on a large scale war, the first thing you need to do is resolve the Mourning. Someone has to find out the answer. Was it a fluke that won’t happen again? Was it a weapon, and if so can it be replicated? Assuming that answer doesn’t prevent war, a major hotpot beyond the ones I mentioned before is Thronehold, which is currently divided between the four surviving nations.

What do you think of Rune arms and how would you handle them in-game?

Rune arms are something created for D&D Online. I haven’t personally played DDO since they were introduced, so I don’t have in-depth knowledge of them. But what I understand is that they’re an offhand weapon that allows the artificer to make an energy attack as a bonus action, with a secondary effect of adding elemental damage to the artificer’s main weapon attack.

So, how would you introduce the rune arm into fifth edition? Well, let’s look at it again: it’s an offhand weapon that can only be used by artificers and allows them to make a ranged attack as a free action. Well, my immediate thought is you just described the artillerist artificer’s Eldritch Cannon. In creating an Eldritch Cannon, an artificer can make it a tiny object that can be held in one hand. The artificer can use a bonus action to make an attack with the cannon. So… artificer-only one-hand weapon that can be used to make an attack as a bonus action… Sounds like a rune arm! Now, in DDO, adventurers can find rune arms that inflict a range of damage types or have greater power. But given that these items can only be used by artificers, my response to this would be to treat the rune arm object as a sort of schema—as long as it’s in the possession of an Artillerist artificer, it allows them to summon a different type of Eldritch Cannon. So it still uses the Eldritch Cannon ability and takes the place of the standard cannon, but could change the damage type or enhance the effect.

So that’s what I’d personally do: say that the rune arm is is the common tiny form of Eldritch Cannon used by Artillerist artificers, and create rune arm items that enhance the feature in various ways.

That’s all for now! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible!

Eberron Continued: What Is Canon?

I’ve got a lot of things I want to write about this week – Phoenix, Kickstarter, and more. However, a comment on the last Dragonmark raises an interesting question, namely “What is canon?”

Let’s start with the comment itself.

If you consider DDO to be canon in some way, there is two survivors from the Dragon/Giant war too: The Stormreaver and The Truthful One. They both died in the conclusion of the most recent game raid, but their history had been told since DDO launch.

Excellent point. But what really interests me is “if you consider DDO to be canon…” I am thrilled with everything that DDO has done and the stories that they have created. They have helped to keep Eberron alive over the years in which there’s been little new published material. But personally, I don’t consider that material to be canon… any more than I consider my own novels to be canon. Because in my mind, these are the same thing.

What COULD be considered canon? I could see a case for any of the following.

* Sourcebooks created by Wizards of the Coast.

* Articles created or authorized by Wizards of the Coast – the Dragonshards, Eberron Expanded, articles from DDI, Dragon, or Dungeon.

* Eberron novels authorized by Eberron.

* The lore created for D&D Online.

With that said, when the design team first created Eberron, we made the decision that novels wouldn’t be considered canon. A novel is a particular story that COULD happen in Eberron… but that doesn’t mean it WILL happen. In other words, just because a novel says that Lhesh Haruuc of Darguun dies in 999 YK doesn’t mean that you’ll ever see that mentioned or acknowledged in a sourcebook. In the Dreaming Dark Trilogy Pierce gets an artifact – the Docent Shira. When I wrote Secrets of Xen’drik, I included game stats for Shira. But I didn’t mention Pierce. Because if you want to use Shira in your campaign, I want YOU to decide what happens to her. So in a sense, SHIRA is canon – covered in a core sourcebook – while Pierce is not. In my opinion, DDO is in the same category as a novel. If DDO does something with the Lord of Blades that contradicts what you’ve done with him, you aren’t somehow wrong. DDO is one possible story, just like the novels. But it’s not any more important than your story.

This raises the bigger question: What is the purpose of canon? In my opinion, having canon material gives players and gamemasters a common language. It lets players from different groups share stories. It gives them something to expect. It can inspire stories and adventures. I can go into an Eberron game and tell the DM “What I really want to do is to investigate the Mourning.” Canon provides the major pillars that carry the setting… The Last War, the Mourning, the Treaty of Thronehold, the Dragonmarked Houses, the Prophecy. I may not know the specific details a DM has decided (such as the cause of the Mourning), but I know the Mourning is a major force in the world. Canon creates a CONTEXT. In my opinion, canon is most useful as a source of inspiration, when the ideas of the Lords of Dust or Lhesh Haruuc’s successor or the Race of Eight Winds or whatever gives you an idea for a story and gives the PCs context to fill in all the little details around it. What I don’t want is for it to limit you. Case in point, in the last Dragonmark someone asked if Eberron had legends of sunken lost continents. None of the material I’ve written does; in developing the setting I focused more on creating civilizations for the aquatic races than on having sunken surface nations. But as a DM, the LACK of canon information shouldn’t stop you from creating your own sunken nation. And regardless of what a novel says, you should feel free to kill Lhesh Haruuc, keep him alive, or just replace him entirely with this cool bugbear you’ve developed.

Beyond this: I might say “Sourcebooks are canon, but novels aren’t.” But the fact of the matter is that *I* don’t use everything in the sourcebooks. For example, I feel that the depiction of Thrane in The Forge of War runs counter to its depiction in other sources and to my personal vision of the nation… and thus, I ignore it. So in my campaign, The Forge of War isn’t canon. Meanwhile, you might decide that since you and your players love the Legacy of Dhakaan books, you want to make the events and characters in that book part of your story. So for you, it’s canon. When we talk about our respective campaigns, I can say “I’ve made DDO and the Thorn of Breland canon, but I’m ignoring the other novels”… and that lets you know what to expect, and gives you information you can use in creating your own character and story.

Ultimately, “canon” is a tool that helps you and your players understand the world. It creates a common language for storytelling. So what’s really important isn’t the broad generic canon, but the canon for your campaign. Personally, I’d suggest that you tell players what’s going to be canon when you start a campaign. If you like certain novels, you can say “These novels are canon.” If you hate a particular sourcebook, mention that you aren’t using it. What’s important is creating YOUR canon.

So… that’s my long rant on canon material. What do YOU think? Do you personally use the events of the novels and DDO in your campaigns? Do you feel that encouraging DMs to make the world their own is a strength of the setting, or a weakness?