Keith Baker is a game designer and fantasy novel author.
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My short bio: My name is Keith Baker. I've been designing games professionally for over twenty years. I'm best known for creating the D&D setting of Eberron and the card game Gloom, but I've also done world and system design for MMORPGs and other computer games, developed LARPs, written two novel trilogies, and scripted a single issue of a comic. My current project is Phoenix: Dawn Command, a story-driven RPG that uses cards to resolve actions. Phoenix is up on Kickstarter for the next 44 hours:
UPDATE: I'M SIGNING OFF NOW - I've got to get back to managing the last 36 hours of the Phoenix campaign. Thanks to everyone who participated! If you have more questions, you can find me at @HellcowKeith on Twitter, find my personal site (which is the place to ask Eberron or Gloom questions) at Keith-Baker.com, or see my latest work at TwogetherStudios.com!
And here's my Proof: http://keith-baker.com/ask-me-anything-on-reddit/
I really just wanted to thank you for Eberron. I started D&D with 3.5, and I started reading Eberron fluff right when it came out. The world and depth available has been a blast, and I love thinking up different ways to tinker with the pieces you've laid out throughout Khorvaire.
The only problem I have at the moment, however, is my current playgroup. They're all new to the game, and the fluff and flavor of Eberron never really jived with them. (After about 5 levels in Sharn and Stormhome, we switched to 5e with a more generic world, sadly)
My question, then, is this: How do you get players unfamiliar to the setting oriented to it? The same could be asked about Phoenix, since the setting in that seems similarly off the beaten path of Fantasy stories.
Thanks for all your work! I can't wait for Phoenix!
<<How do you get players unfamiliar to the setting oriented to it?>>
This is something I often face when I'd doing one-shots at conventions or charity events. First off, I usually use pre-generated characters; we'll be providing pre-gens people can use for their first session of Phoenix if they want. This allows me to create a group of characters that have concrete ties to one another and the world as opposed to asking players to come up with character ideas for a world they know nothing about. I make sure the characters have basic concepts that players can connect to... and then I ask them to fill in the details. For example, in one Eberron game I establish that the PCs were all in a PoW camp together during the war. But I ask each player to describe the worst thing that happened to them in the camp, the person they left behind, etc. So they don't know anything about the Last War coming in - but by the time they're done, they know about the war, they know the Karrnathi used undead, and they hate those %&$* Karrns. And that's usually enough to get them start thinking about their own unique stories.
I did a few posts on my blog about the Phoenix pregens - here's one.
Hey Keith! As a 12-year-old my heart was broken when my create-a-world contest idea was beaten by Eberron (my proposal contained the phrase "and another cool thing is", for starters). Since then I've become a professional games teacher / Dungeon Master and run Eberron games for kids in countries like Thailand and Chile. Eberron is still my all-time favorite D&D setting, and my one and only tattoo to date is the House Cannith dragonmark.
So it's something of an honor to ask you, as someone who's brought so much to the hobby, where you see it going in the future. Specifically, I'm wondering if there are areas of development within the industry that you're particularly excited about. I guess what I'm asking is, what do you think the most exciting thing to happen to RPGs will be in the next 10 years?
Having worked in MMORPGs, CRPGs, and pen and paper RPGs, ongoing development and evolution of games is definitely something that interests me. There's a lot of games at the moment that change the basic structure of a tabletop RPG. FIASCO cuts out both the bulk of the rules and the GM and just focuses on creating a collaborative story. MICROSCOPE is about creating an entire world. APOCALYPSE WORLD and its variations changes the role of the GM and the nature of player actions. All of these are interesting in their own ways.
With PHOENIX: DAWN COMMAND I'm staying closer to the traditional format in many ways - there is a GM that holds the secrets of the stories and guides the players through it, and each player has a persistent character. However, the reason I'm using card-based resolution is because it really changes the experience and gives players a greater sense of control over the narrative. Phoenix also takes death - something that is usually either trivialized (by resurrection magic/respawning) or avoided at all costs and making it a critical aspect that really defines your story. I didn't set out to create a new RPG system, because there's so many good ones out there - but Phoenix excels at telling a certain kind of story that just doesn't work in most systems.
I don't know what the NEXT new thing will be - but I do feel that there's a lot of great designers (to call out a few of my favorites, Jason Morningstar, Robin Laws, John Harper, Will Hindmarch, and many many more) pushing the form and trying new things. I look froward to seeing what comes next!
Also, I'd love to hear more about your work in Thailand & Chile - I did some traveling back in 2009, but didn't get to Asia or South America. Drop me a line at Keith (at) Twogetherstudios.com!
How would you describe the visual style of the Dhakaani empire?
Personally, I've always seen the Dhakaani (the ancient Goblin empire in Phoenix) as valuing functionality and efficiency over aesthetics. They are literally "Spartan" - austere and stoic, but extremely good at what they do. So looking to Dhakaani weapons and armor, I don't see them going in for elaborate decorations or engravings: A Dhakaani smith will make a blade that is incredibly durable and sharp, but it's not necessarily pretty to look at.
One thing I've wondered - your Eberron novel series both seem to have protagonists who break "the rules" of a D&D character due to their secret nature.
On the other hand, I remember your travelling DM game tried to represent non-standard PCs with creative re-interpretations of standard mechanics.
Would you say you're particularly interested in pushing the boundaries of what's considered possible in the "D&D genre"?
(Come to think of it, Don Bassingthwaite pulls the same trick in his first Eberron trilogy - and it's a female character in all three cases. Four if you count the deceptive antagonist in your first book.)
It's true: whenever I run one-shot games I often use non-standard characters (the Droaam monster party, the Karrnathi undead A-Team, etc). In that case I often do reflavor mechanics as opposed to creating entirely new ones - so the "werewolf" that's a twist on a druid, or looking to my last charity game, the shifter warrior who's mechanically based on a half-orc barbarian.
Looking to my novel protagonists, this ties to the fact that the novels aren't actually based on a session of a game. I always think about how the character could be represented IN the game, but it's not like any of the stories are actual recaps of a game session. With that said, I could see having characters with some of the surprising twists in a game; it would be something that would involve a certain amount of give and take between GM and player. For example, I've had a number of PCs who have had missing memories - leaving me a lot of room to decide what happened in their past that I forgot. And when I ran a cyberpunk horror campaign, I had one player who agreed with me ahead of time to play the Alien-style "undercover android." It was something that didn't actually get revealed until around eight sessions into the campaign, and the character had their own interesting story; but it was something where the PC and I worked out in advance just how their nonstandard character worked.
So taking someone like, say, Lei: That could be something where a player tells the DM "Surprise me with something", or it could be an idea that the player presents during character development and the DM and player figure out together.
Running a campaign in Eberron in which my PCs are (unwittingly) doing some research, "heavy lifting," and word-spreading for Sora Taraza, and it's looking like their actions might just bring about the Next War if they don't stop being so inconspicuous about fulfilling their various tasks.
I know what MY Sora Taraza feels about the potential return of hostilities on the scale of those that made her nation possible, and was curious, how does YOUR (canonical) Sora Taraza feel about the Next War, and would she welcome it, attempt to prevent it, or simply take advantage of it as it came while being ambivalent?
In MY Eberron, Sora Katra is the schemer who is acting to expand her and Droaam's influence in the world. Sora Teraza is an enigma. She is an oracle with astonishing vision - but she DOESN'T always use that knowledge to the benefit of her nation or her sisters. In my mind, Sora Teraza has a higher agenda that even the others can't see. She has a particular path she wants the Prophecy to take, and everything around her - Droaam, her sisters - are just tools to that end.
So in my mind Teraza has no long-term interest in Droaam. She helped to found it because it served her purpose to do so. But she may well have known WHEN SHE FOUNDED IT that it would last exact 34 years before being destroyed in a brutal war with Breland. Which is fine, because it's in that war that (insert thing she wants to happen) will happen.
So in MY Eberron, Teraza already knows what it would take for the Last War to start again. Whether she encourages it or seeks to stop it is all about how it affects her long term plan, which might not come to fruition for decades or centuries. In other words, it's up to you to decide whether she's for it or against it; but either way, she sees a much grander vista than anyone else... and she's not always helping her sisters.
What is her grand plan? That's also up to you, but if you want one easy option, I could see her working to bring back Sora Kell.
Actually, this all started specifically because she didn't like something Katra was doing, and is using the PCs as intermediaries to prevent it without engaging in open conflict (which seemed like an appropriate way for Teraza to operate).
Agreed. Using PCs to do deal with she doesn't want her sisters to know about is definitely something I'd do with Sora Teraza.
If you don't hot the 52k stretch goal, will you ever release the additional 40 pages of material you were going to write?
There's a lot of story and regions to explore in the world of Phoenix. Here's a glimpse at that: http://keith-baker.com/phoenix-dread-and-empire/
If we hit $52K we can afford to have more of that content in the core book. Otherwise, I hope to support the world with additional stories and source material over time, but it will depend on how the game does once it's out in the wild!
I loved getting the chance to playtest Phoenix this winter. Can you tell us about how the game has evolved through playtests over time? I noticed the One Shot Podcast, for instance, seemed to be using a larger numerical scale for successes on spreads than I had seen previously.
Also, the Forceful and Elemental schools seem to get less press- can you elaborate a little about them?
Ooh, in that vein, were there any school ideas that never came to fruition?
Originally, Phoenix was designed as a traditional pen & paper RPG. A few months into development I pushed the idea of card-driven resolution. This gives players a greater sense of control over their actions, which is important as Phoenix is a game where the odds are against you and you have to make sacrifices to succeed - and there's a big difference between making a heroic sacrifice to save your friends and dying because you rolled a 1 and the GM rolled a 20. In Phoenix you will eventually die - quite a few times, most likely - but you have an opportunity to shape your fate.
Originally we used four suits of cards, with three assigned to each School. We dropped that to three and two after testing. Likewise, the original number values were higher; cards went up to a value of 10 and spreads could go up to 50. Around seven months ago we found it worked better with a smaller range - the OneShot Podcast was one of the final playtests that pushed us to make that change!
Moving to the next question: We used Durant, Devoted, Shrouded and Bitter in our public playtests, so they've hogged the spotlight. However, the other two Schools are just as strong.
The Elemental Phoenix commands elemental forces - fire, ice, lightning. The Elemental is the traditional "sorcerer," sacrificing durability for firepower. The Elemental died for duty, and one of the most distinctive Elemental abilities is the power to burn their own lifeforce to generate mystical energy - so an Elemental can literally burn herself out to generate the final burst she needs to kill her enemy.
The Forceful Phoenix is about motion. It's not brute force (which is more Bitter) but constant and unstoppable movement. The Forceful is thus about speed and precision. It's one of the most strategically complex Schools, which is one reason we don't use it in demos; but it's a great School for someone looking for a little more tactical depth.
Is WotC keeping you in the loop about when/if Eberron will be blessed with 5e support, and if it is happening, are you in a position to confirm or deny that you are actively involved in the effort?
I stay in regular contact with WotC as far as Eberron support goes. I expect that I will be involved when official support finally happens (though I wasn't involved with the Unearthed Arcana article). I believe there will be support, but at this point I couldn't tell you when. This is the main reason I've created Phoenix: to have a setting that I can develop as fully as my time and player interest allows. But there's still lots of stories I'd like to tell in Eberron, and I hope there will be news on support soon.
How does someone like you get started? I mean which college did you join and what courses did you take? How does one become part of this industry?
Technically, I'm part of a number of different industries (Computer game designer, RPG/card game designer, fantasy author). At presented, there are a number of schools that offer game design programs, but that wasn't an option when I got started. I studied English and Creative Writing at Bates College, with an interest in history.
For world designers, one of the most important things you can do is to study our world: history, folklore, geography. Learning what shapes our world and cultures is a great way to create new worlds that feel plausible, even if they are alien.
For game designers, a critical thing is to PLAY LOTS OF GAMES. Tinker with games - change rules and see what happens. It's like taking a watch apart and putting it back together... find things you enjoy and then figure out what makes them work that way.
Anyhow, I could go on at more length about ways to get started, but is there a particular subset of the field you're curious about (Computer, card, RPG)?
What is your favorite video game?
Tough question! A while ago I would have said Planescape: Torment, but Mass Effect II is definitely competition for favorite CRPG. And I still have a sentimental spot for Archon, going way back to my childhood - I usually love games that follow that model.
Hi Keith! I got to play Copyright Infringement Gloom with you a while ago, and was wondering if there are any plans to release a PDF paste-up to the interwebs?
Not at the moment. While a lawyer from the EFF has assured me that it's really "Fair Use Gloom," it still feels weird to me to share something so heavily based on other peoples' work. For those who've never seen it, Copyright Infringement Gloom is a sci-fi version of Gloom that uses characters and situations from Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, BSG and many more settings.
I am still tempted to make A Gloom Of Thrones, though. After all, GoT is basically the story of a bunch of families that suffer miserably until they finally die!
Awesome. So Dhakaani ruins could be something like the Ludos from the Spartacus show (not Spartan, I know, but the visuals)?
That seems about right. The ruins have survived an incredibly long time precisely because they are so functional, but there's definitely an austere bleakness to them.
I'd play the heck out of GoT GoT!
I'll but it together when I have time, but between Phoenix, Fairy Tale Gloom and Munchkin Gloom I've got quite a few irons in the fire!
Let me take another crack at a clumsy and long-winded Eberron question: Over the course of centuries, the Dragonmarked houses came to dominate a variety of industries and aspects of Khorvaire's economy. But did any of them take any interest in crops? For example, did House Vadalis ever attempt to create a "magebred wheat" hybrid?
Or was all that left to the Druidic orders and the priests of Arawai?
Per canon, the primary agricultural arm of the Twelve is the Raincaller's Guild of House Lyrandar, which controls the weather. Per Dragonmarked, the unmarked members of the guild are experts at irrigation and agricultural engineering while the marked members... control the weather.
Meanwhile, I've always seen this as being an important aspect of communities that have close ties to druids, including the Eldeen Reaches, Shadow Marches and to a lesser degree the Valenar. Both Taer Valaestas and Zarash'aak use mystically altered vegetation as part of the foundations of their cities - and I see this sort of thing as playing out in other ways within communities tied to these cultures.
And yes, within the Five Nations priests of Arawai (and the Devourer) could take on some of this role.
But there's nothing wrong with having Vadalis or the Twelve as a whole working on magebred crops!
I'm DMing for some friends, currently have them fighting a yet unknown aberrant marked villain looking to cleanse Sharn and start anew. It's been destroyed/rebuilt before and this is just a new age in which he plans on sculpting how it will turn out. I've got ideas in mind on how he'll do it - he's eliminated the head of the Sharn Watch and has plants in there now, slowly building a mutant army in the sewers, and displacing the Boromar clan, while working his way into local government. Agents of the Citadel and Dark Lanterns aren't yet aware, but killing off head of the Sharn Watch would probably draw some attention.
Putting on your evil cap for a minute, how would you plan a takeover of Sharn (or more generally, some very large city)?
Well, if you'd like to see my blueprint for how an aberrant-marked villain might cleanse Sharn - complete with aberrant army in the sewers - you might want to read my novel "The Son of Khyber" as that's the plot!
A critical question is whether you're trying to preserve the existing population, or whether you want to destroy and start fresh. The Dreaming Dark typically tries to preserve existing structures; their goal is to conquer you without ever realizing you've been conquered. Thus, in the Sundering of Sarlona they essentially spawn a civil war so that they can appear as the saviors who put everything back together. Rather than forcing their rule on a hostile populace, they convinced the people to welcome them to power.
Using that approach, the simplest thing is to create an enemy. In Sharn, this could be Daask, the Boromars, or any other convenient group.
But my personal path would be to expose the Dreaming Dark. Some charismatic figure convinces the populace that they have been infiltrated by alien creatures who have replaced their most trusted leaders. Whip the people into a frenzy and have a witch-hunt that wipes out all voices of reason and obstacles to ascension.
The funny thing? This is actually a very valid approach for the Dreaming Dark to use itself... which would thus make it extremely easy to place agents where they could be exposed. So it uses the threat of Inspired and Riedran aggression as the stalking horse, while its chosen saviors use a different identity (say, one of the Dragonmarked houses). At the end of the day, both Riedra and Sharn are ruled by the Quori - but even the populace doesn't realize they're being ruled by the same force.
I know it was mentioned on the Kickstarter that 4 is the optimal number for Phoenix. I've got a group of 5 as my regulars and really couldn't stand cutting one of them out.
How well would a 5 person run of Phoenix go? Is there any interest if offering "boosters" that provide duplicates of cards to allow for larger groups?
In an ideal world, we'd offer a print-on-demand option that would let you easily get additional decks for five or six players. However, at the moment we haven't found a good PoD option for tarot-sized cards - though we're working on that. For now, the only option for 5-6 players is to have a second copy of the game.
We'll cover the balance issues of running for large groups in the rules. The main issue is that Phoenix is a story-intensive game, which means that individual player turns take time - so the more players you have, the longer it takes to get back around to each player. It's a lot like Gloom in that way; there's nothing stopping you from playing Gloom with five or six players, it's just going to take longer.
But five players is certainly possible, and it also means you're in good shape even if someone gets sick or has to miss a session!
Is game development even remotely similar to the skewed image projected by media like Twitter?
Probably not! Which industry - computer, card/board or RPG? Do you have a specific example you're curious about?
I'm just wondering if video game development is at all as overdramatic as the media-mongers make it seem.
It depends where you work. I've certainly been at offices filled with drama and seen some extravagant or astonishing actions. However, most of the time it's just a job. As lead designer on an MMORPG, most of my time (was) spent going to meetings, coordinating between design, art and engineering, balancing numbers and managing a million assets. At a lower level you might be writing hundreds of conversation trees or creating levels with an editor; nothing astonishingly dramatic. With that said, I've seen a lot of Dibert-style #$%@. So... not as dramatic as it might be portrayed, but shit definitely happens.
Which branch of devs within a project has it the hardest?
Interesting question, and I'm not sure there's a right answer - it's really about perspective. Personally, I think coding seems like a more tedious task than art or design; on the other hand, if I was an engineer, I might feel like I am actually the one who is seeing the game really come together - and I might find satisfaction in the completion of individual elements that as a designer I don't even fully register.
If I had to pick the job I'd least want to do, it would be the Producer. As a designer, artist or engineer there comes a time when I can just be nose down MAKING something, and that's what I like. A producer has to maintain a balancing act between all those departments - smoothing feathers when one department wants something another doesn't want to do, which is essentially all the time - all the while managing timelines, budgets, clients and licenses, marketing and so on. When I'm at a company the thing I hate most is going to endless meetings when I'd rather be getting something done - and as a producer, that's basically your job.
I don't know if the producer has it the hardest - and I've certainly been on projects with CRAPPY producers who definitely didn't have it hard - but it's the job I definitely wouldn't want to do myself.
Is there a canon place on Khorvaire for creatures like dragons or elemental giants that traditionally live on their own continents? Are there frost giant strongholds or red dragon lairs in the mountains of Khorvaire, and so on?
When full 5e support comes, do you think goblinoid or other monstrous PCs might be included?
RE: Places for Monsters in Khorvaire, there's all sorts of ways to handle these things.
The Dragons of Argonnessen are highly civilized. But if you dropped a newborn dragon in the middle of nowhere, he won't somehow develop that culture from nothing. So if you want a solo dragon somewhere, it could be an agent of the Chamber monitoring a region; a long dragon from Argonnessen pursuing an agenda of his own (perhaps performing experiments that can only be done in a certainly location, such as a manifest zone); an exile driven from Argonnnessen who has turned against the other dragons; or an orphan or foundling who has no ties to Argonnessen and is more savage and feral in his outlook. This last approach is the best one if you just want a "monster" dragon; if you want to take it farther, you could say that it's been corrupted by the Overlords (which is one theory as to where the Mockery came from), twisted by the Daelkyr, or otherwise a monster that has little in common with civilized dragons.
The same can go for things like Giants. We've already got Gorodan Ashlord in Droaam, and I could see giants anywhere along the west coast. The Demon Wastes would be an excellent place for a tribe of savage, demonically tainted giants. Perhaps their ancestors sought to flee Xen'drik during the war with the Dragons; you could have the remnants of an amazing, ancient giant ship on the coast of the Demon Wastes.
Beyond that, places like the Mournland, the King's Wood, and other large uncivilized areas can all work for dropping something unpleasant.
As for monstrous PCs, if it was up to me I would love to grab Don Bassingthwaite and put together a goblinoid sourcebook for Eberron. However, I don't think that's going to be at the top of the list when/if 5E Eberron support happens.
A friend and I are making our own card game. Got any tips for how to make it succeed, both at the early levels (making a Kickstarter that gets funded) and at the later stages?
It's a big question. Hitting some important points: prototype early and play as often as possible. Give it to other people and have them play without you in the room (or state, or country). You won't be in the box, and it's important to make sure that people understand it when you're not around. Provide an anonymous forum for feedback so your friends will be comfortable telling you about problems. Listen. Be prepared to change things that you love and that seem clear to you if no-one else likes or understands them. Making a kickstarter? Keep it simple. Don't create options that are more work for you and which only a few people might want - IE, here's my game-based bottle openers, which only five people end up wanting, but now I have to make them because I promised... and which do nothing to improve my actual game.
Could you please mention some novels, movies or literature to inspire Thrane and Silver Flame elements in Eberron? As always, thanks!
This isn't the first time I've seen this question, and I don't really have a good answer for it. The Church of the Silver Flame is more inspired broadly by our myths and folklore than by movies or books. And I don't mean a specific earthly religion, but rather elements drawn hear and there from many different stories. I've always had an interest in Joan of Arc, and there's certainly an element of her in Tira Miron... on the other hand, Tira fought demons instead of human oppression, and she makes a noble sacrifice to bind demons instead of being betrayed and burned. There's a touch of Cardinal Richelieu in Krozen... but likewise many ways in which they differ. I've noted before that the Jedi in Star Wars have something in common with the Silver Flame: they believe in a force that empowers them to protect the innocent. I also point to Men In Black, because this is really what the Templars are: sentinels standing ready to protect the innocent from the unknown terrors of the world. They just aren't so secret about it.
One of the key things I always remind people when thinking about the Silver Flame is to remember that Eberron is a world in which supernatural evil is a VERY REAL THREAT. There are rakshasa, doppelgangers and dragons masquerading as humans, not to mention lycanthropes. There are vampires and all manner of other undead. Horrors from Khyber could bubble up from beneath your feet, terrors from Xoriat could suddenly rip through planar walls, and Quori may be manipulating your dreams. Many people look at the Silver Flame and project our negative images of inquisitors and witch-hunters... which usually have the connotations of people driving by paranoia or a desire for personal power. But this is a world where demons, vampires, werewolves and far worse exist - and the heroes of the Silver Flame are those ready to selflessly put themselves in harm's way to defend the innocent from these things.
The twist to Eberron, of course, is to call out that these people are still human - and thus you HAVE corruption and such alongside the nobility.
Love (most of) your work, and am looking forward to Phoenix. (Love that The Doom that Came to Atlantic City worked out in the end.)
Silly local-boy question: What's your favorite Portland-area game store, and why?
Second question - upon looking up the link for The Doom, it appears that it is out of print! Any idea from Cryptozoic on making more?
Re: Doom, it's being reprinted and produced by Renegade Studios. And yes, I love that it worked out in the end. People ask what it's like running a Kickstarter, and the answer is "Nowhere near as difficult as picking up the pieces of someone else's Kickstarter after they've screwed it up."
Favorite local store is hard to say, because we've got so many good ones. I spend a lot of time at Guardian Games because I like the space and the Critical Sip... but I also really like the people and the atmosphere over at Red Castle Games. And if you go further afield, I like both Cloudcap Games (small but cosy!) and Rainy Day Games.
Thanks! In my game, the PCs are about to delve some ruins in the Byeshk Mountains, and I got to wondering what kind of classic mountain monsters like giants might be wandering around there. For my games I imagine there are probably isolated giant communities in the forgotten reaches, long separated from Xen'drik, and dragons who have established lairs in Khorvaire for their own inscrutable purposes. For dragons who want to monitor the Prophecy, Khorvaire seems like a good place to be.
If I can fit in another question: have you thought any more about the best way to represent dragonmarks in 5e, since your blog posts on it? I like some things about the feat approach, but for the Medani PC in my game I created his dragonmark as a magic item, which I could balance against other magic items, rather than against feats. I think the feat approach to dragonmarks makes them feel a little piddly, rather than mysterious and powerful abilities.
Given that there's been no clear progress on official 5E support for Eberron, I've been devoting my design energy to Phoenix: Dawn Command as opposed to 5E Eberron conversions. Thus, I haven't worked on 5E Dragonmarks. My gut is that feats aren't the right answer, but I think there's a variety of other approaches to explore; the magic item direction is certainly one of them. One of the things I've always called out is that the actual spell-like abilities associated with a mark aren't its most significant power; the ability to use Dragonmarked focus items is far more significant for the daily business of the houses. So in a way, it's less about the power of the mark than about the existence of magic items that can only be used by people with a mark. Here's a post that touches on that... http://keith-baker.com/dragonmarks-51-the-dragonmarked-houses/
Hi Keith! I'm a big fan of Eberron, it's 5 years I only play there.
I would like to ask you: what could you imagine for a high-level evil campaing? Eberron is a world in struggle for heroes. Don't you think high level evil charachters would have no foes?
The big thing to remember is that "Evil" isn't some sort of monolithic big team. The Lords of Dust, Daelkyr and Dreaming Dark don't care if you're good or evil; they'll all still be your enemies whether you're a hero or villain. Meanwhile you have the dragons of the Chamber, who are an epic power that are generally a factor because humans are insignificant to them - but your PCs could change that. And recall, the last time they got pissed off, they wiped civilization from Xen'drik and established epic curses to keep it from ever rising again. So high-level evil PCs may not have much competition among HUMANS, but any of these forces could still threaten everything they hold dear. If you conquer Breland, now YOU'RE the one who has to deal with the people that want to destroy it!
Hi Mr. Baker,
We met several years back when you visited Buffalo NY for UB Con. While I've never been into celebrity culture or getting pictures or signatures, I still consider this one of my happiest pictures (outside of my wedding pics)
We chatted for a bit about Gloom and Eberron and I thought you were so cool and totally approachable, which I appreciated greatly.
As someone who's been a DM for D&D for over 30 years now, I was never a big fan of established campaign settings, until Eberron. I fell in love with Eberron and it's been the only established setting I've ever used. So of course my question is regarding it.
In all honesty, how do you feel about how WOTC has handled Eberron post 3.5?
I remember UB Con well!
The current status of Eberron is frustrating for me, because of course there's so many things I'd love to do with it and stories I'd love to tell. But I do think the WotC situation is far more complicated than it can appear from the outside. I know the people there are passionate about the game and that many of them care about Eberron. But any setting inherently appeals to a niche market. The more specific you get - say, a Dhakaani sourcebook - the more you're now aiming your book at a niche of a niche. I could choose to make such a book anyway, even though I KNOW something else might be more profitable. I don't think the people at WotC have that freedom; they are in the middle of a corporate ladder.
So I still hope we'll see more Eberron. I even hope there will be a way for us to see that Dhakaani sourcebook. I'm frustrated that I can't write it today. But I don't blame WotC for that. But it is why I'm making Phoenix - so I have a world that I can support in any way that my time and player interest can justify.
In some posts you suggested the idea of playing a Paladin of Vol. How would it work? Would he have an evil aura, since he's tied to a bad "god"? Wouldn't he realize that? Wouldn't he see that his superiors are mostly evil? Or would you arrange the rules in some way?
And what about the orcish "silver flame" paladines?
Btw I always felt that there should be some kind of secret weapon helpin the good orcs fighting in Demon Wastes, or they should have been all killed since centuries. Do you have any idea about?
First: Yes, by my 3E house rules, a paladin of Vol would have an evil alignment regardless of his personal alignment, because it's the alignment of his power source. Here's a post on that:
As for seeing that his superiors are mostly evil, "Evil" means something very different for me in Eberron; here's a post on that.
So a Vol paladin with detect evil would see that his superiors are ruthless and harsh in how they do things. However, that won't change the fact that most of those superiors are still dedicated to protecting and guiding the people of their community - and ultimately to fighting against death itself. Vol is a BLEAK religion, but it has very strong community values. Given that we believe death is the absolute end and that if the gods exist, they are our enemies, the only thing we have in this world is each other. Protecting your family and community from oblivion is a paramount duty, and you need to be able to trust in one another.
So: a cleric of the Emerald Claw might be "evil" in the sense of being selfish and power-hungry. However, the TYPICAL priest of the Blood of Vol is going to be focused on protecting his community; if he's evil, that just means he is going to be utterly ruthless in how he does it and cruel to his enemies - but he'll still lay down his life to protect his own.
I'm actually playing an orc paladin from the Demon Wastes in the 5E Eberron campaign I'm in right now, and I'll post more about my thoughts on them on my website sometime. Short form: Yes, there's certainly something special that has kept them alive for centuries in one of the most unrelentingly hostile environments in Eberron.
I find the idea of a Dragon twisted by a Daelkyr quite charming. What template would you use for it? Why Dragons had no reaction?
In fact, it seems they had no role at all during Daelkyr invasion. Or they do?
Finally: it looks like a twisted dragon is a long term plan. But I always have this problem with aberrations: they are crazy. They are uneasy to understand. But finally i need my players to know them, to understand their plans, or they cannot really hate them. Don't you think so?
Here's my thoughts on the Daelkyr.
The thing about Argonnessen is that overall they don't care about humanity. Humans are like ants to them. If something shows up in Khorvaire and starts stomping on ants, it's not their problem. They didn't care what the elves and giants did to one another until it posed a clear threat to them - at which point they acted decisively. So one assumes that with the Daelkyr Incursion, it didn't get far enough for them to consider it a threat. With one notable exception. The dragon Vvaraak taught the Orcs to use druidic magic and founded the Gatekeepers, who were eventually the key to defeating the Daelkyr. So you could say that dragons had a MAJOR role in that incursion - just not Argonnessen as a whole.
Yes, but wouldn't that mean to have an evil campaign similar to a good one? If it ends to be "they want to destroy the world, I am part of the world, I have to save the world".
My players would like to try an evil campaign in Karrnath where they are belivers of Vol or The Mockery, we have to decide. At low level it's ok, but a 18th cleric of the Mockery has almost nothing to hide to :)
The question is what it means "to be evil". What is it the players want to DO? Conquer Karrnath? What happens after that? Do they just want to amass personal power? Figure out what they want to do and then consider what obstacles could get in their way. For example, you want to take over Karrnath. Well, Erandis Vol already has her plans for Karrnath, and the Lords of Dust and Chamber may have plans no one even knows about. Essentially, most of the most powerful forces in Eberron ARE hidden. Your 18th-level cleric has nothing to fear from the basic trappings of society - but he's going to run up agains tthe vampires, rakshasa, and dragons who have already BEEN secretly running things for centuries... or things like the Xoriat incursion that no one was expecting.
And don't forget, the ultimate goal of the Blood of Vol is to save EVERYONE from death... though few of its mightiest members (I'm looking at you, Erandis) live up to that challenge.