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?



26 Responses to “Dragonmarks 3/28: Roots of Magic”

  1. balard says:

    You said before that you don’t like the parts about airships in the explorer’s handbook. How exactly you see then functioning? The day-to-day basis. Do they hover? Can you control the elemental without the mark? How maneuverable are they? What exactly the crew do aboard? Only the Zil can build then?

  2. Keith Baker says:

    Good questions… airships are certainly a good subject for a future post.

  3. Jim Diffin says:

    In the Eberron games which you run do you implement any kind of conversion rate between costs and prices as published in 3rd edition and those published in the 4th edition books? To give you an example, do you feel that, for instance, the specific costs of travel as published on p.18 of the Explorer’s Handbook could still be used in a 4th edition game? In your experience, is gold worth the same amount in 3rd edition and 4th edition games? Many thanks.

  4. Siberys says:

    Riffing off of the wording of number 3 there, what are some ideas that have been left on the cutting room floor? I recall something about aquatic areas, frex,

  5. Nicolas Carrillo says:

    I personally would like to know more about Zil gnomes and their connection to Thelanis: they seek to amass information for protecting themselves, but as fae what else inspires them? Are they mostly capricious beings? Could it be thought that there are “seelie” and “unseelie” archetypes of gnomes in Eberron and that there is rivalry between them?
    Additionally, I would like you to expand upon monsters in Khorvaire: one of the few things I do not like about Eberron -and mind, I love the setting- is that it seems that monsters are so commonplace there that they have lost their mystery and sense of the unknown. Does it only happen in places as Sharn? Is my perception wrong?
    Will you ever come to play in Spain or Latin America?
    Thanks!

  6. Keith Baker says:

    Siberys, the wording of #3 is certainly key, as there’s many things that DID make it in but ended up on the cutting room floor. Undersea areas and sahuagin/merfolk culture is one of them, though a little of that crept back in The Shattered Land. In any case, I’d add the question to the pile.

  7. Keith Baker says:

    Nicolas – all good questions and I’ll try to address them in the future. And Spain and Latin America are both on my lists of places I’d like to get to – at the moment it’s a matter of rebuilding my travel budget!

  8. Nicolas Carrillo says:

    One last question: if Eberron assumes that there may be persons that fail to live up to the ideals of a group or ideology (e.g. as happens with the Silver Flame) or dark sides to good persons/groups and vice versa, what are the dark sides (if any) of the Kalashtar and the gray parts of the inspired. I have the feeling that they are portrayed as archetypes of good and evil aspects, respectively. Am I wrong?

  9. Keith Baker says:

    Nicolas, this ties to a broader question on alignment that’s on the pile, so I’ll get to it. Short form, there are dark sides to the kalashtar and gray aspects to the Inspired, and I’ll address them in the future.

  10. Siberys says:

    my gut reaction to that; Kalashtar are the soldier with nothing to lose, willing to go to morally-ambiguous lengths for the greater good, while the inspired have created a peaceful, stable kingdom.

  11. Keith Baker says:

    Essentially correct, Siberys, though my kalashtar answer is a little more complicated. I’ll get to it in a future post. With that said, I encourage anyone else with thoughts on the matter to share them here!

  12. Nicolas Carrillo says:

    Thanks for your answers and sharing your thoughts with us, you are a great guy besides having created the best campaign setting ever. As a lawyer, I am really curious about many things and will probably ask more in the future… Must be related to the Sivis dragonmark I have

  13. Keith Baker says:

    Do you actually have a dragonmark tattoo, Nicolas? If so I should get you to send me an image for the gallery… http://bossythecow.com/tattoos.htm

  14. Nicolas Carrillo says:

    The mark has not manifested yet, but once it does I’ll let you know ;)

  15. Nicolas Carrillo says:

    I’m pretty sure I am wrong, but as you English-speakers say, my two cents on the matter of the Kalashtar are the following: perhaps some Quori, beings from Dal Quor and thus the world of dreams, are embodiments of not so noble dreams/goals/ideals, etc., and care not much for mortals, perhaps not even for the one’s whose body they share, and thus violate their dignity by using them as means for obtaining goals (this may be getting too Kantian/philosophical). On the other hand, maybe some Quori may seek to overthrow the dreaming dark in order to establish the dominion of the aforementioned unnoble ignoble “dreams”. As said at the outset, most likely I’m wrong, but it was worth giving a try.

  16. Keith Baker says:

    Remember that the kalashtar and Inspired are fundamentally very different. Inspired are directly possessed by quori spirits. When you talk to an active Inspired, you are speaking to the Quori. With the kalashtar, the quori presence is a very passive force that largely influences the kalashtar through instinct and dream. Even if the quori is a good entity, it doesn’t have the same level of influence over its host as the Inspired. But more on that later in the week.

  17. Chris Lyons says:

    I personally run a Planescape/Spelljammer campaign. Most campaign worlds are easy to add in, but Eberron has unique properties that make its simple addition more difficult (although certainly not impossible). Do you ever tie in either in your Eberron campaigns, or do you have any advice for those who want to?

  18. Jason Hobson says:

    So if you wanted to move Eberron into the future say 100~200 years, how would you envision the world evolving?

  19. Doctorbadwolf says:

    What sorts of considerations would you write about if you were to write a suppliment for playing during the early years of the last war?

    What about during the Elven rebellion against the giants?

    Other points in time that you’d like to support?

  20. A fan of Eberron says:

    Hi, I wanted ask a question which is kind of related to my present characther what I am playing in our tabletop group. Bear me few seconds explain little facts about my char origin;

    Story takes in 30 years before treaty of thronehold and my guy is member of house Deneith (adopted, as he is aerenal/valenar coupled child who’s mother married a Deneith after valenar father became died/MIA).

    Now fun facts is that he is follower in ways of Blood of Vol but not hyper active worshipper (a occassional visit) and also Rekkenmark academy graduate.

    Now story so far has focused on Sharn and bunch of crazy halfling cultists who try carve ice statues which conjure through occultic ritual a permament ice age.

    But now comes a key question which is related to my char personal (future) story which I have discussed in GM already and given approval;

    ‘What happens if someone in Eberron would enter Siberys Heir PrC and manifest Mark of Death?’

    This leads to multiple questions like; Is it possible to refound House of Vol? Would other dragonmark houses approve it’s exchistence or see it as thread? Would Aerenals jump to try slay living heir even if heir would not take up path of revenge against Aerenal nation? What would be Valenar’s take on situation? How would dragons react to ressurection of Lost Mark?

    Lady Vol’s reaction is kind obvious but how she would behave or try influence a person whom had manifested a siberys version of Mark of Death? What she would seek establish House of Vol in present era in Eberron (if not count revenge plans to her tragic life)?

    If wondering what sort power Mark of Death was discussed with GM; we came to solution for a Skeletal Guard (a 7-8th level divine spell from Spell Compendium). It conjures twice of CL amount of HD undead skeletons with turn resistance egual to CL. Can control four times CL sum. It normally asks onyks stones to make them (they are permamently created) but GM allowed conjure temporal skeletons (a kind of summoning/calling effect with 1 min/CL) with the mark but also allows create permament ones as optional choice (and need also corpse to do it). Also skeletons in question would possess all abilities they had while alive (a inteligent undead skeletons shortly said).

    Just thought ask some input what all sorts elements or surprises could show up in my char story when mark starts manifest (I give your reply to the GM who then decides how implement them in the game).

  21. Keith Baker says:

    The Mark of Death and Vol are good topics for a future post, though it may not come for a few weeks.

  22. Keith Baker says:

    @Doctorbadwolf, I’m all for a supplement dealing with campaigns in different eras. Consider this on the list for an upcoming week.

  23. The idea of spell components being advances in the science of magic is incredibly compelling.

    I think the idea of Magic Missile having been the equivalent of a 3rd-level spell and through advancement of arcane knowledge it’s now 1st-level really encapsulates that idea.

    And I’ve got an itch to write something that has to do with it.

  24. A fan of Eberron says:

    Ok, I will wait patiently for future post then deal with my questions then :) .

  25. [...] underlined the key point here. It’s related to the last question in this post – the fact that in Eberron, magic is treated like science. One of the key points here is that [...]

  26. [...] underlined the key point here. It’s related to the last question in this post – the fact that in Eberron, magic is treated like science. One of the key points here is that [...]

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