posted Friday, June 8th 2007 by
None of the Above
Eberron wasn’t quite the success Wizards of the Coast were hoping for, but as an all-new setting it managed to introduce several new ideas that I really like and wouldn’t hesitate to borrow for a homebrew setting.
- Half-elves are their own race. In the core rules and almost every other setting, half-elves are relegated to a sub-race, a caste of second-class half-breed citizens who almost nobody plays because they’re mechanically inferior to humans. Eberron makes half-elves their own race – the Khoravar, descendants of humans and elves who met long ago on Khorvaire and are thus, in a clever way, a race native to the continent. As a house rule, I like to beef up this race in Eberron by giving them the human’s bonus skill point.
- Outsiders are immortal. Outsiders, whether they reside on the material plane or the outer planes, can never be permanently killed. Unlike Planescape where it’s possible to kill a demon for good, Eberron makes outsiders truly immortal by having them eventually re-form if killed. Weak outsiders are replaced with new ones with none of their original memories, while the more powerful ones (such as fiends with class levels) retain their knowledge and abilities when they eventually re-form. Evil such as this must be sealed away for any sort of long-term solution.
- Elemental binding is neat. Logically progressing from the idea of a golem animated by an elemental spirit (a generic phrase I suspect didn’t originally refer to the creature “elemental”, but whatever), you have all manner of convenient stuff powered by elementals, from trains to airships to flaming swords. The thematics of this is really a lot more interesting than the plain “it’s magic” that players have gotten used to over the years.
- Low levels are important. In most D&D 3ed games, I find that experienced players feel terribly underpowered at level 1, despite being already significantly above average in comparison to the world’s normal people. The old D&D Basic Rules only went as far as level 4 and by then you were a veteran elite; nowadays, it’s nothing because you’re only one-fifth as powerful as maximum character level. In practice, it’s believed that D&D 3ed was never properly playtested for very high levels, and many games peter out before level 15. Eberron rightly scales down the balance of power in the world so that the low levels mean much more, 11th level is legendary again, and the very high levels command truly world-shaping power.
- Intrigue is good. I never managed to get a handle on the meaning of “pulp noir and dark intrigue”. However, it’s frequently the case that experienced players become tired of the same old hack and slash dungeon crawling, and often emigrate to games with less focus on combat and more on exploration, investigation and roleplaying. Eberron offers a fertile setting for this sort of thing, with a low enough magic level that investigations can benefit from magical resources without degrading into a barrage of divination spellcasting.
Join me in a few days’ time when I balance out my praise of Eberron with a few complaints.