Chapter 1: What Is Eberron?
In an ancient ruin beneath the Demon Wastes, a band of heroes race to claim the Reaper’s Heart. If the agents of the Emerald Claw reach it first, they’ll unleash an army of the dead against the people of Khorvaire…
In the city of Sharn, a brilliant team of spies pull off an impossible scheme — breaking into the impenetrable vaults of House Kundarak. But instead of gold, they find a secret that could shatter the fragile peace between the Five Nations…
On the deck of an airship, a wizard debates the interpretation of an ancient prophecy with a bloodred dragon. If the sage loses the debate, the dragon will destroy the airship and everyone on it. But if she wins the argument the dragon will take them to distant Argonnessen… and no human has ever seen the land of dragons and returned!
What is Eberron? It’s a world bound by a golden ring and surrounded by twelve moons. It’s the intersection of thirteen planes of existence, which shift in and out of alignment. It’s a place where magic has been harnessed as a tool — used to build cities, to sail ships through the skies, to create both wonders and weapons.
Eberron embraces swashbuckling action and pulp adventure and adds a layer of neo-noir intrigue. Stories don’t always end well and there isn’t a perfect answer to every problem. The Last War turned old allies into bitter enemies and destroyed an entire nation, leaving terrible scars behind. Crime and corruption lurk in the great cities of Khorvaire. Hidden dragons shape the course of history. Sinister fiends influence the dreams of the unwary. Human greed and ambition may prove more dangerous than any devil or demon. But through this darkness, there are opportunities for a group of bold adventurers to make a difference… for better or for worse.
This chapter explores these core themes and the ways that they can affect the stories or characters you create in Eberron. Here’s a quick overview of what lies ahead.
- A Magical World. From warforged and airships to the mighty dragonmarked houses, magic is a part of the world and its stories.
- Pulp Adventure. Whether you’re leaping from an airship or battling demons in forgotten ruins, Eberron encourages cinematic action and swashbuckling adventure.
- Neo-Noir Intrigue. Eberron is a world of difficult choices. The line between hero and villain is easily blurred, and even the champions of the light may have things they regret.
- The Last War. Eberron has just emerged from a century-long civil war, and the scars of that bitter conflict remain. How did the war affect your character, and how will it shape your story?
- The Mourning. This mystical cataclysm destroyed an entire nation and created a deadly wasteland in the heart of Khorvaire. The Mourning brought the war to an end, but it is a mystery and a threat that looms large over Eberron.
- Ancient Mysteries. Powerful artifacts are hidden in the ruined cities of giants. Dragons and demons scheme in the shadows, unraveling a prophecy that could shape the future. These ancient mysteries can be a source of fantastic adventures and terrible danger.
- If it exists in D&D, it has a place in Eberron… But it may not be the place you’re used to.
These elements are all part of Eberron, but you don’t have to use all of them in every story. As you go through this chapter, decide which themes appeal to you and best fit the stories you want to tell.
A Magical World
Magic as a Tool. In Eberron, arcane magic is a form of science. The spells and rituals of wizards and artificers have been developed and honed over centuries, and those principles have been incorporated into daily life. Magic is used for entertainment, transportation, communication, warfare, and much more. While magic is widespread, there are limits to is power. You can book passage on an airship or get an illness cured by lesser restoration, but resurrection, teleportation, and similar effects are hard to come by. True wizards are rare and remarkable; most common magic is performed by a working class of magewrights, professional spellcasters who master a small handful of rituals or cantrips. The magical services available in Khorvaire are discussed in more detail in chapter 2, along with the availability of magic items.
Here are a few examples of how magic is integrated into everyday life in Khorvaire.
The lightning rail uses bound elementals to drive a train of carriages along a path of conductor stones. The rail links most major cities and is a simple way to travel long distances.
An elemental airship uses a fire or air elemental, bound into a ring that holds the ship aloft and provides motive force. The airship is a recent innovation that is transforming the business of transportation.
Everbright lanterns use continual flame to light the streets of Khorvaire. The flame never goes out, but metal shutters allow a lantern to be dimmed or shut down.
Speaking stones allow communication between distant communities. A short message can be sent from one stone to another, functionally similar to a telegraph.
Warforged are sentient humanoid golems. Developed during the Last War, warforged were created as weapons. The Treaty of Thronehold forbid the creation of new warforged, while granting freedom to the golems that survived the war. Rules for making warforged characters can be found in chapter 3.
Dragonmarked Dynasties. The magical economy is dominated by a handful of powerful families and the guilds they maintain. These are the dragonmarked houses, barons of industry whose influence rivals that of kings and queens. These dynastic houses derive their power from their dragonmarks: arcane sigils that are passed down through their bloodlines. A dragonmark grants limited but useful magical abilities, and over the course of centuries the houses have used these powers to establish powerful monopolies. House Jorasco dominates the medical trade with its Mark of Healing, while only someone with House Lyrandar’s Mark of Storms can pilot an airship. Chapter 3 provides more details about dragonmarks and the dragonmarked houses, along with rules for creating dragonmarked characters.
Eberron is a world of swashbuckling adventure and two-fisted action. Whether you’re a DM developing an adventure in the world or a player preparing to explore it, here are a few things to consider.
Exotic Locations. Lightning rails, airships, and other forms of transportation can facilitate travel to exotic locations. Adventures could take you to the colossal ruins left behind by the giants of Xen’drik, the warped landscape of the Mournland, or the dark demiplanes within the underworld of Khyber. Even if you prefer to stay in a town, you could find yourself in the milehigh towers of Sharn… or the ancient goblin tunnels that lie beneath it.
What Are the Stakes? What’s better than a battle on the deck of an airship? A battle on the deck of an airship that’s about to crash. Look for ways to raise the stakes of a scene, so players feel that every decision matters. This could be driven by the consequences of failure: through your actions, you’re protecting your friends, your house, or your nation. It could be about time: The alarm’s been triggered, and you only have six rounds before security arrives. Such things can even be incidental. Did you start a fight in an alley behind a bar? Now you notice the drunk ogre sleeping in the corner… if he wakes up, this could get ugly.
Player Characters Are Remarkable. Eberron is a world in need of heroes. Lingering tensions of war remain. From the fanatics of the Emerald Claw and the mad cults of the Dragon Below to the flesh-warping daelkyr and ancient archfiends, Eberron faces many threats… and there’s no one out there to stop them. In Eberron, the gods are distant and don’t directly intervene. The Silver Flame is a divine force of light, but it can only act through mortal champions. The few powerful benevolent NPCs have limitations: the Keeper of the Flame loses her powers if she leaves her citadel. The mighty great druid is… well… a tree. Most of the powerful people in the setting are driven by selfish goals. If the Tarrasque comes to Sharn, there’s no one else to deal with the problem: the fate of the city is in your hands.
This is something to consider in developing your character and choosing your background. If you take the soldier background, you can be more than just a grunt. What did you do during the Last War? What was your greatest triumph or most tragic defeat? If you’re a spy, are you a prized agent or did you break loose from your organization after they pushed you too far? Don’t just think of your character as a set of numbers: even at 1st level, you’re remarkable.
OPTIONAL RULE: ENVIRONMENTAL ELEMENTS
A fight breaks out in The Cat & Biscuit. The gnome rogue leaps from the landing and swings across the room, passing over the heads of the surprised thugs to land in the perfect position for a sneak attack. The shifter barbarian strikes a mighty blow that knocks her enemy into the blazing hearth; the bandit shrieks as the flames spread to his clothes.
Combat can feel very mechanical. I move 10 feet. I make an attack roll. I use a reaction. One way for the DM to encourage more cinematic action is to present a list of Environmental Elements. In a tavern, this list could include Chandelier, Plate Glass Window, Roaring Fireplace, Tray of Drinks, Drunk Patron. If you’re fighting in an ancient tomb the list could be Pile of Gold Coins, Scattered Bones, Rotting Tapestry, Moss-Covered Statue. Each turn, a player can work one of these elements into their description of their action. The primary purpose of this is to give players ideas; interesting details to use while describing their actions. But if a player comes up with a particularly clever way to use an element, the DM could grant advantage on a check or attack roll, or some other benefit. The rogue needs to cross a room full of enemies and wants to swing on the chandelier? As the DM, I’d let them make a simple Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to avoid opportunity attacks, essentially getting a free Disengage action.
Environmental elements are always optional and largely cosmetic. As a DM, you don’t have to grant a bonus for every use of an element. But presenting a list can help players think of the location as more than just squares on a map and challenge them to add more cinematic flair to their actions.
Hero Points. The heroes of pulp adventure are often able to overcome seemingly impossible odds. One way to reflect this is to use the optional hero points rule from chapter 9 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. This is optional; hero points change the balance of the game and give player characters an opportunity to turn certain failure into success. It’s a way to make heroes feel largely than life, but it’s not a good match for every story.
Remarkable Villains. One reason the world needs heroes is because it already has villains. It may be a long time before you’re ready to face the archlich Erandis Vol in battle. But part of the flavor of pulp adventure is to have recurring villains who are closely matched with the heroes — rivals who advance in power as you do. One way to create a compelling villain is for the DM and players develop the villain’s backstory together. As a DM, you might ask a player: When you fought in the Last War, Halas Martain served in your unit… until he betrayed you. What did he do, exactly? Likewise, even when a pulp villain appears to die, they can have their own remarkable escapes from death. Perhaps Halas had a ring that cast an illusion of his death while actually stabilizing him, or cast feather fall when he leapt from that tower in Sharn. Here as well, as a DM you could engage the players: It’s Halas Martain, all right. How do you think he survived your last encounter?
This isn’t something every group will enjoy, and you never want players to feel as though they can’t succeed. But for some groups, this sort of collaboration can produce a compelling story and a sense of investment in the world.
While Eberron embraces the swashbuckling action of pulp adventure, it also draws inspiration from neo-noir and hardboiled fiction. It’s a world where stories don’t always end well, where there isn’t a perfect solution for every problem. In developing characters or stories in Eberron, consider the following concepts.
Shades of Gray. In Eberron, it’s not always easy to separate the heroes from the villains. Good people can do terrible things, while cruel or heartless people may be serving the greater good. An inquisitor may torture innocents in a quest to root out a cult of the Dragon Below; but if she’s stopped, the cult will survive and flourish. A group of orcs are raiding a human settlement; but the settlers have built their village on land sacred to the orcs and may be disrupting wards that hold evil at bay. The heroes find a powerful magic weapon in an ancient tomb; but this artifact is the sword of an ancient hobgoblin general, and his descendants want it back. There are ways to resolve these problems, but the answers aren’t always simple or obvious.
There can certainly be times when decisions are straightforward. If the Emerald Claw is about to detonate a necrotic resonator that will kill half of Sharn, they need to be stopped. But a good Eberron story challenges you to think about your actions, and the simplest solution may not be the best one.
Human Motives. Not every conflict is a fight between light and darkness. In Eberron, the vast majority of people are driven by simple motives: Greed. Fear. Pride. Ambition. One person just wants to get some gold in their pocket. Another wants to impress their paramour. A leader forcing the Five Nations into war is driven both by fear of their neighbors and the sincere belief that Khorvaire would be better off under their rule.
There are ancient and primordial forces at work in Eberron. But there are also misguided patriots, religious extremists, and dragonmarked houses looking to wring a few more pieces of gold out of Khorvaire. There are spies who will do anything to protect their nations and petty criminals trying to build empires. There’s a place in Eberron for selfless heroes and truly vile villains, but there’s a lot of middle ground in between.
Everyone Has Regrets. Player characters are remarkable people, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition already encourages you to pick a flaw for your character, something that helps define your motivations. But if you want to add a little hard-boiled flavor to your character, you might consider a few additional aspects: Do you have a debt you need to repay and, if so, do you need to resolve this in a week or in a year? Did you make a tragic mistake, and if so, is it something you can ever undo? The Regrets table provides a few examples of missteps that might haunt you.
|1||While you were serving in the Last War, you were forced to abandon an injured comrade. You don’t know if they survived.|
|2||You placed your faith and your fortune in the hands of a lover who betrayed you. You don’t know if you can ever trust anyone again.|
|3||You murdered a rival. Your actions may have been justified, but your rival’s face still haunts you.|
|4||Someone put their trust in you and you betrayed them for personal gain. You may regret it now, but you can never repair the damage you’ve done.|
|5||You squandered your family’s fortune and brought shame and ruin to your household.|
|6||You engaged in covert operations for a nation (either as a spy or soldier). While you were serving your country, you did unforgivable things.|
|7||You abandoned your family to pursue a life of adventure. Your village was destroyed in the war and you don’t know if they survived.|
|8||You made a bargain with an extraplanar entity that you now regret.|
|9||You made a promise to a child or a lover that you failed to keep.|
|10||You volunteered for mystical experiments. These may be responsible for your class abilities (sorcerer spellcasting, barbarian rage), but you don’t know if there will be side effects.|
The Balance of Pulp and Noir. As a setting, Eberron works with both pulp and noir themes. This is a spectrum: on one end you have over-the-top swashbuckling adventure — battling incarnations of evil on the deck of a burning airship! On the other end you have gritty hardboiled action in the alleys of Sharn, a brutally human scenario where there’s no easy choices. The most interesting path often lies between the two extremes, but don’t be afraid to focus on one end of the spectrum if that’s what suits your story.
Why Do You Need 200 Gold Pieces?
A flaw or regret is something that shapes your personality, something that plays an ongoing role in your story. But perhaps you have a problem that needs to be resolved right now.
This is entirely optional: As a player, you could choose to roll or select an option from the Debts table.
Why would you possibly want to take on a debt? It’s a way to add depth to your character and to provide a compelling, immediate motive for adventuring — you’re not just out to get rich, you need gold to get that bounty off your head. It’s also an opportunity to establish something that can be part of your character moving forward. If you’re trying to reclaim a magic item from a pawn shop, it lets you establish that your character has that magic item — which could be an heirloom, something you created, a gift from a mentor — you’ve just temporarily lost it. If you’re trying to raise money to join a secret society, it establishes that your membership in this organization may be a part of the story later on.
Establishing a debt requires collaboration and approval by both player and DM. Work together to develop the details: who is blackmailing you? What’s this secret society? What’s the story behind the magic item you’ve pawned, and what sort of item is it? As a player, you present ideas but the DM has final approval.
|1||You committed a crime during the Last War, and now you’re being blackmailed by someone who has proof. Your actions may have been justified, but the law won’t care.|
|2||You’ve got a gambling problem. If you can’t repay Daask (see chapter 6), you’re going to be playing tag with a cockatrice.|
|3||You own an uncommon magic item, but you had to sell it to a pawn shop. If you can’t reclaim it within the month, they’ll sell it off.|
|4||You were making a delivery on behalf of the Boromar Clan (see chapter 6) and you lost the merchandise.|
|5||Someone knows the whereabouts of a sibling or loved one you thought lost in the Mourning, but that information is going to cost you.|
|6||You have a degenerative disease that can’t be cured by mundane means. If you can’t get a lesser restoration soon, you’re going to start showing symptoms.|
|7||Your family lost everything in the Last War. 200 gp would get them a stake in a new (farm/inn/stagecoach).|
|8||You’ve got a price on your head. Until you settle things with House Tharashk, you’d better keep an eye out for bounty hunters.|
|9||You’ve got an opportunity to join an influential secret society. But you’ve only got one month to raise the membership dues.|
|10||Roll again. It’s not your debt: it’s you’re lover’s problem. Can you solve the problem before they have to face the consequences?|
The Last War
For hundreds of years the continent of Khorvaire was united under the Kingdom of Galifar. This came to an end with the death of King Jarot in 894 YK, just over a century ago. Conflict over the succession spiraled into outright war between the Five Nations.
The Last War was a bitter struggle that forever changed the shape of Khorvaire. It was a century marked by shifting alliances, with years of stalemate interspersed with periods of intense conflict. This grueling conflict left deep scars on the land and the people, but there was worse to come. On Olarune 20, 994 YK the nation of Cyre was consumed in a magical cataclysm now known as the Mourning. The cause of the Mourning remains unknown, and many fear that it was a consequence of the extensive use of war magic. Shock and fear brought the nations to the negotiating table, and the Last War came to an end in 996 YK with the Treaty of Thronehold.
While many celebrated the end of the war, others remain unsatisfied with its outcome. No one won the war, and deep scars remain. War-torn villages and towns are still rebuilding. Once fertile farmlands are scorched and ruined. There are refugees in every major city. And even though people optimistically refer to it as the Last War, most believe that it’s only a matter of time until it begins anew. The mystery of the Mourning is the only thing holding the warmongers at bay. If the secret of the Mourning can be uncovered — if it can be proven that the Mourning couldn’t happen again, or if its power could be harnessed as a weapon — the Last War could begin again. As such, the nations remain in a cold war as each makes preparations and seeks advantages in the conflict that could lie ahead.
EFFECTS OF THE WAR
Here’s a few of the major effects of the Last War.
Dragonmarked Power. The dragonmarked houses sold their services to all sides and made considerable profits from the war. The Five Nations are divided and dependent on the services of the houses, and it’s questionable if any one nation can impose its will upon them.
Karrnathi Undead. When a series of famines and plagues crippled the nation of Karrnath, it embraced the Blood of Vol and introduced undead into its armies. The religion was largely abandoned towards the end of the war and many of the undead were confined to crypts, but some are still in use.
Magical Innovation. Over the course of a century of war, the nations and dragonmarked houses developed new spells and tools for use in the war. Airships and warforged are recent developments, and the wandslinger tradition emerged from the war.
The Mourning. This magical cataclysm destroyed Cyre and brought the war to an end. Cyre is a vast, unrecoverable wasteland and those Cyrans who survived the disaster are scattered across Khorvaire.
New Nations. Before the Last War, Galifar laid claim to all of Khorvaire. A host of new states emerged over the course of the war. These include the goblin nation of Darguun, the elf kingdom of Valenar, the druids of the Eldeen Reaches, the monsters of Droaam, and more.
The current year is 998 YK. The Last War lasted for over a century and only came to an end two years ago. As a player character in Eberron, you possess remarkable skills. Did you take part in the Last War, and if so, in what capacity? If you fought, which nation did you serve? Were you honorably discharged, or did you abandon your cause? If you didn’t take part in the war, why didn’t you fight and what did you do instead?
The following table provides ideas about how a background could reflect a connection to the Last War. Feel free to change the suggested backgrounds. While charlatan is an obvious background for a spy, you could easily adapt criminal or urchin to the same role.
|1||You were a common soldier, facing the enemy on the front lines of the interminable war. (Soldier)|
|2||You served on the open seas, whether as a marine, a naval officer, a privateer or a smuggler. (Sailor)|
|3||You commanded troops and led soldiers into battle. Were you a good leader, or are you haunted by your failures? (Soldier or noble)|
|4||You were a spy, gathering intelligence for your nation. Are you out of the business, or could you still be called back in? (Charlatan)|
|5||You were tasked with maintaining morale and raising the spirits of your soldiers. (Entertainer)|
|6||You provided spiritual support to your troops. Were you always devout, or did you find your faith on the battlefield? (Acolyte)|
|7||You used your remarkable knowledge as part of a military think tank… or perhaps you provided arcane support on the battlefield. (Sage)|
|8||You were a smuggler or a profiteer, taking advantage of the war to line your pockets. (Criminal or charlatan)|
|9||You opposed the war. The actions you took to protect the innocent have made you a local legend. (Folk hero)|
|10||You used the connections of your influential family to avoid military service. Are you haunted by this, or do you remain indifferent? (Noble)|
The nation of Cyre was once the heart of the united kingdom of Galifar. The Last War took a heavy toll on Cyre and its citizens, serving as the battleground where all of the Five Nations crossed swords. But no one was prepared for the disaster that struck in 994 YK.
Accounts of the Mourning vary. Some say that a blinding light engulfed the battlefield near the Saerun Road. Others say that the dead-gray mists began in the capital city of Metrol and spread out from there. What is known for certain is that within the space of one day the nation of Cyre had been engulfed in a wall of mist, and that anything caught within the mists was horrifically transformed. Over a million Cyrans were killed on the day of Mourning. Those who survived were the soldiers fighting in enemy territory, those living on the borders who were able to flee from the advancing mists, those few who were able to escape the interior through magical means. On Olarune 20, 994 YK, the nation of Cyre ceased to exist.
The Mourning threw Khorvaire into a state of shock. Who could unleash such power? Was this a weapon, and if so, when would those responsible issues their demands? Were its borders stable, or could they expand at any moment? What was to be done with the Cyran refugees surging into every adjacent nation?
Fear of the Mourning brought the Five Nations to the negotiating table, and in 996 YK the Treaty of Thronehold ended the Last War. But all of those questions remain unanswered. No one knows the cause of the Mourning or whether it could suddenly expand anew. Breland opened its borders to refugees, and Prince Oargev serves as de facto ruler in the territory now called New Cyre. Despite its grand name, New Cyre is little more than a vast refugee camp. Other refugees are scattered across Khorvaire; some are treated with pity, others with suspicion or anger. And fear of the Mourning hangs like a shadow across Khorvaire. Could it happen again? Is this how the world ends?
A wall of dead-grey mist surrounds the remnants of Cyre. Beyond the mists lies a land twisted by magic, a wound that will not heal. The land is blasted and strangely transformed. In some places the ground has fused into jagged glass. In others, it is cracked and burned. Broken bodies of soldiers from various sides litter the landscape — soldiers whose dead bodies refuse to decompose. The Mournland is a vast open grave.
In the Mournland, the wounds of war never heal, vile magical effects linger, and monsters mutate into even more foul and horrible creatures. Arcane effects continue to rain upon the land, magical storms that never dissipate. Stories speak of living spells — war magic that has taken physical form, sentient fireballs and vile cloudkills that endlessly search for new victims. Angry ghosts continue to fight their final battles. The only thing that’s predictable about the Mournland is that nothing is predictable; any sort of monster or horror could be found within its borders. And yet, it also holds the wealth and treasures of an entire nation, along with the secrets of House Cannith and everything else that was left behind. It’s dangerous. It’s mysterious. But it’s also a dungeon the size of a nation, with opportunities for those brave enough to enter the mists.
The Mourning and You
The Mourning transformed Khorvaire. Shock and fear brought an end to the Last War. In making an Eberron character, think about the impact it had on you. If you’re from Cyre, what did you lose in the Mourning? Family? Friends? Are there heirlooms or treasures lost in the mists that you’re determined to regain, or loved ones you hope to someday see again? Do you feel loyalty to your nation and hope to see it restored, or have you burned Cyre out of your heart?
Even if you’re not from Cyre, the Mourning may have had a profound impact on you. Are you afraid that the Mourning could expand, or do you prefer not to dwell on such things?
If you’re religious, did the shocking tragedy of the Mourning cause you to question your faith, or did it reinforce it? If you’re an artificer or a wizard, are you interested in studying its effects more closely… might you even hope to unravel its mysteries yourself? Do you see it solely as a tragedy, or do you hope that this awesome power could somehow be harnessed and controlled?
Beyond this, player characters are remarkable people. Perhaps you were caught in the Mourning and survived the experience… but its effects remain with you. Consider these ideas.
- As a barbarian you could have been a simple peasant caught in the Mourning. Everyone else in your community was killed, but their spirits were bound to you. Your barbarian rage represents you channeling these vengeful ghosts. Is there a way to lay these spirits to rest? Do they have unfinished business they want you to resolve?
- As a sorcerer your arcane powers could be the result of your exposure to the Mourning. Were you physically transformed as well, or are your powers the only manifestation of the Mourning? Are you comfortable using your abilities, or are you afraid that you may be increasing the power of the Mourning with each spell you cast?
- As a warlock your patron could be interested in the Mourning and drive you to learn more about it. Your patron could even be part of the Mourning — whether a collective of spirits killed on the Day of Mourning, or even a dark and enigmatic power that might have been responsible for this tragedy. If you take the latter approach, do you feel that by using your warlock powers you are serving the Mourning? Or could it be that you’re siphoning your powers from it and believe that you are actually weakening it with your actions?
- As a member of an unusual race, you could say that you are actually a creation of the Mourning. Perhaps your tortle was an actual turtle transformed on the day of Mourning. Or maybe your tiefling is touched by the dark power of the Mourning instead of by an infernal power.
What Caused the Mourning?
There will never be an official answer to the cause of the Mourning. As a DM in Eberron, we want you to decide the cause of this tragedy… or if you prefer, to leave it as a mystery that will never be solved. With that said, people in Eberron itself have many theories about the cause of the Mourning; it’s up to you to decide if any of them are correct.
- The Mourning was the result of a century of extensive use of war magic. If the nations continue to use these magics, the Mourning will expand.The dragonmarked House Cannith made a fortune selling magical weapons to all sides during the Last War. The Mourning was the result of research gone horribly awry. The secrets can be found in a Cannith research facility within the Mournland. If this knowledge could be recovered and refined, it could produce a terrifying weapon.
- The Mourning was triggered by the release of an ancient demon overlord trapped since the dawn of time. This mighty fiend is lurking in the Mournland and building its power, but soon it will be ready to act.
As a DM, the question you need to ask is whether you want the mystery of the Mourning to be solved, and what the consequences would be. Right now, fear of the Mourning holds war at bay. If it’s confirmed that the Mourning is no longer a threat — or if one nation manages to harness its power — the war could begin again.
Our world was born in strife. The three Progenitor Dragons crafted the planes at the dawn of time, and rested in the space that lies between them. It was then that cruel Khyber turned on the others, killing noble Siberys and scattering the pieces of his body. Eberron fought Khyber, but couldn’t defeat the dark wyrm. And so Eberron wound Khyber in her coils and transformed, becoming a living prison that could forever hold the darkness within. And this is the foundation of our reality. Eberron is the Dragon Between, the world on which we stand. Khyber is the Dragon Below, source of demons and foul things. And the ring around our world is the broken body of Siberys, the Dragon Above, whose blood is the source of all magic.
This cosmic struggle was merely the first of many wars that shaped our world. The fiendish children of Khyber spilled out from the underworld and spread chaos across the land. We know little of this time, save that the mighty dragons — the first children of Eberron and Siberys — fought against these demon overlords. In the end, an act of sacrifice kindled the Silver Flame that binds these demons to this day. But they hunger to escape from their bonds and wreak havoc, and we must always be vigilant.
Civilizations rose and fell. The giants of Xen’drik worked great magics, even destroying one of the moons. This rash action led the reclusive dragons to utterly destroy the giant nations, and the continent of Xen’drik remains ravaged by the epic spells unleashed in this battle. In Khorvaire, the empire of the goblins was brought down by a conflict with the vile daelkyr. These flesh-warping lords of madness were eventually trapped in Khyber by wise orcish druids, but ruins are all that remain of that great empire.
Modern civilization is built on the bones of the past, and these ancient mysteries may have a dreadful impact on the future. Many of the modern cities of Khorvaire are built on the foundations of ancient goblin cities and fortresses, and these may still hold aberrant threats from the war that destroyed their civilization. Older still are the ruins once inhabited by rakshasa and other fiends, and these may hold artifacts and other treasures far beyond the capabilities of any modern artificer. But there is more to the past than treasures waiting to be found. Stories say that demons and dragons are fighting a long, cold war in the shadows. These tales speak of a Draconic Prophecy… hidden revelations that grant the power to shape the future. Hidden dragons, undead elves, immortal fiends; all may be fighting to determine the path of the Prophecy, and player characters may be pawns in this great game. As one of the heroes of the age, you surely have a role in the Draconic Prophecy. Will you be a tool of one of these ancient forces, or will you master the game and determine your own destiny?
Dragons and demons are just a few of the dangerous forces at work in the world. The daelkyr came to Eberron from the Plane of Madness. They came with armies of aberrations — forces commanded by mind flayers and bolstered by beholders. They shattered civilizations and spread horrors across Khorvaire. The daelkyr were ultimately bound in Khyber by druidic magic. They linger in the darkness — the Lord of Eyes, the Prince of Slime, Dyrrn the Corruptor — creating new aberrations and waiting for the day they can unleash their full power on the world above.
While the daelkyr themselves can’t return to the surface, their minions can. This leads to the Cults of the Dragon Below, mad mortals who work with mind flayers and lesser aberrations. A cult of the Dragon Below can spring up anywhere, as a seed of madness takes root in a community or court … and spreads.
As if dragons and demons aren’t trouble enough, stories say there are fiends lurking in mortal dreams. According to these tales, the Dreaming Dark is an alliance of nightmare spirits from the plane of Dal Quor, fiends that feed on mortal fear and manipulate through dreams. Some stories say the Dreaming Dark can possess people through their dreams, while others claim they have psychic agents hidden across Khorvaire.
Beyond the enigmatic daelkyr and the Dreaming Dark, other threats have arisen in the past century, spinning out of the strife of the Last War. The Lord of Blades is a warforged insurgent, a deadly warrior and artificer who seeks vengeance against the humans who created his people as weapons for their war. The Aurum is a cabal drawn from the wealthy elite who seek to turn gold into greater power. The Emerald Claw was an elite military unit that served Karrnath during the Last War. Disavowed by their king, the Emerald Claw engages in guerrilla strikes across Khorvaire, and includes necromancers, vampires, and undead bound to their service. Some say the Emerald Claw serve an ancient lich known as the Queen of Death, that their true goal is to place her on the throne of Karrnath and the Five Nations.
These are just some of the dark forces working in the shadows of Eberron. There are hungry lycanthropes, clever doppelgangers, and cults devoted to the Dark Six. There are stories of a cabal of assassins with aberrant dragonmarks and elves twisted into creatures of nightmare. And that’s not to mention the mundane crime and corruption that can be found in any major city. It’s a dangerous world — hopefully you can handle it!
If It Exists in D&D, There's a Place for It in Eberron
… But It May Not Be the Place You’re Used To.
Eberron draws on the core elements of D&D. It’s a world of wizards and rogues, a setting with halflings and dwarves and elves. Want an otyugh? Orcs? Goblins? Paladins? They’re all there. Eberron draws on the same basic elements as other settings, but it often diverges from the traditional archetypes assigned to those things. A few factors here:
No fixed alignments. Mortal creatures are shaped by their culture and personal circumstances. An orc is just as likely to be lawful good as chaotic evil, depending on their personal history. A gold dragon, a beholder, a halfling; you can’t make automatic assumptions about any of them. In part this is because of Eberron’s distant gods. Orcs aren’t driven by Gruumsh’s fury, and the gnolls aren’t tied to Yeenoghu. The exceptions to this rule are creatures whose identities are shaped by magic. Fiends and celestials embody pure ideals of good and evil; lycanthropes are driven by a curse.
Monsters aren’t always villains, and the villains aren’t always monsters. Many of the gnolls of Droaam are more honorable than the human mercenaries of House Deneith. In Karrnath and Aerenal, undead are used as tools. You certainly could find yourself fighting a merciless minotaur in the slums of Sharn… but you’re just as likely to cross swords with a cruel halfling cutthroat.
There’s a place for everything in Eberron… but it may not be a prominent place. Kenku aren’t mentioned in any of the canon sourcebooks of Eberron. There’s many ways to add kenku into Eberron, but that doesn’t mean that there needs to be a kenku nation or that kenku have played a significant role in history; it may be that a dozen kenku were thrown out of the Faerie Court of Thelanis and these are all the kenku in the world. So just because it’s possible to put anything you want in the world, don’t assume that the streets of Sharn are a zoo flooded with every character race that’s ever been suggested.
Chapter 3 provides advice on adding new races to Eberron. Here’s a few other ways that you can add something into Eberron with minimal impact on the setting.
- It comes from the vast and largely unexplored continent of Xen’drik.
- It was created or caused by the Mourning — the mystical cataclysm that destroyed Cyre — and has only been around for four years.
- It’s a product of the underworld of Khyber, the source of many aberrations and monsters.
- It’s the result of recent experiments by one of the dragonmarked houses or a mad artificer.
- It comes from one of the planes and slipped into the world during a recent convergence.
Not everything has to exist in Eberron. You can find a place in Eberron for anything. But it’s also possible to say that something doesn’t exist in Eberron. For example, if you wanted to use Gruumsh in Eberron, you could re-imagine him as one of the demon overlords of the first age. You could decide that he’s the classic Gruumsh, who has recently found his way to Eberron from the core cosmology. But the DM can always say “No, there is no version of Gruumsh in my Eberron.”
This comes to a critical point. Nothing is set in stone. Like every sourcebook that’s come before it, this book is intended to be a source of inspiration: use what inspires you, but always feel empowered to change the world to better suit the story you want to tell. There’s a place in Eberron for everything in that exists in D&D… but it’s up to you whether to make use of it.
Eberron and the Multiverse
Eberron has always been a part of the multiverse. Eberron is surrounded by its thirteen planes. These planes play an important role in the setting, producing dramatic effects as they shift in and out of alignment with Eberron. But the Astral and Ethereal Planes surround and enfold Eberron, and if someone ventures into the Deep Ethereal it’s possible to pass beyond Eberron’s closed system and step into the Great Wheel or the World Tree.
As a DM, it’s up to you to decide whether such travel is trivially easy or all but impossible… and whether threats from other settings will make their way into Eberron. Most people consider the tale of the Progenitor Dragons to be a fable: a myth to explain the underworld and the golden ring in the sky. But what if it’s true? What if three divine beings joined together to build a new creation in the depths of the Ethereal? Elves, orcs, dragons; all of these could have been created in the image of the creatures of the Great Wheel but given a chance to develop beyond the reach of Lolth and Gruumsh. The Ring of Siberys could in fact be a shield: a defense that has hidden Eberron since it was first created.
If you’re not interested in connecting Eberron to other settings, then that shield is still intact. But if you do want to incorporate elements from other realms, this shield is starting to fail. Perhaps House Cannith will build a planar gateway and accidentally bring the Blood War into Eberron. Maybe Tiamat has only just discovered Eberron and is slowly corrupting its dragons. Ultimately, it’s up to you. You can avoid any contact between Eberron and other settings. You can explore the idea of that contact being recent and new (perhaps linked to the Mourning, either as cause or effect). Or you can choose to say that there has always been travel between these realms, adjusting things to incorporate these ideas.
If you choose to explore the idea that contact between settings is recent and limited, consider what that might mean for everyone involved. In the Great Wheel Asmodeus is an ancient threat, with well-established cults, lines of tieflings, and a great deal of lore to be discovered. If Asmodeus has just discovered Eberron, the sages know nothing about him. He has no power base to work with and will have to recruit new followers. And you might see unusual alliances forming against him, as both celestial and fiend might join forces to drive out the outsider. As with everything else, Eberron provides an opportunity to explore existing things in a new way.
FAMILIAR FACES, UNFAMILIAR ROLES
A few things to bear in mind as you step into Eberron…
Dragons have a civilization humanity knows almost nothing about. Shapeshifted dragons may be secretly manipulating human civilization.
Elves are split into two cultures. The reclusive Aereni are gifted wizards ruled by their undying ancestors. The Valenar elves are ruthless warriors who strive to be avatars of ancient heroes. Other elves live among humanity and have adopted its customs.
Gnomes are schemers and scholars who maintain order through intrigue and assassination.
Goblins once had a mighty empire, and a tradition based on honor and martial discipline. Their civilization was crushed by the daelkyr and their land was stolen by humanity. They aren’t inherently evil, but they have good reason to loathe the people of the Five Nations.
Halflings can be found as merchants and innkeepers, but in their homeland they’re dinosaur-riding rangers and barbarians.
Orcs are a proud and primal people. While they’ve never built great cities, they were the first druids of Eberron. Many continue these ancient traditions and fight to protect Eberron from aberrations… while others have fallen prey to the madness of the daelkyr.