Saturday, April 05, 2014

E is for Eberron

Ah, Eberron. I have tales about Eberron.

Eberron was the result of a fantasy setting search, where WotC through the doors open to suggestions from the fandom. They expected a few hundred entries at most, but got well over 10,000 one-page campaign pitches, and the judges of the project (most of them strong-backed managerial types) spent about a month hauling around huge binders filled with them, reviewing them in every meeting, meal, and spare moment. So to those that did not get the nod, of course you didn't - they were probably completely exhausted by the time they hit your description of the campaign you've been running for fifteen years.

The winning result was described to me by one of the judges as "A dwarf in a trenchcoat with a gun", and indeed, the campaign was trying to do things that had previous campaigns had shied away from. A big part of that was embracing the idea of technology, moving into a more modern era where magic is commonplace. Another was to establish national and societal rivalries in a post-war environment where one of the nations had been magically vaporized. Steampunk is often thrown at the world, but the vibe more like the interwar years of the 20s and 30s.

Another word that was used to describe the setting was "noir", but I don't think that carried through most of the line. Noir is atmospheric, without a doubt - a world where it always raining, and when it doesn't rain, the sun bleaches the life out of everything. A world of secrets and hidden agendas. A world where it is always 2 AM and you're looking for a glass of beer in a cocktail bar. But noir also has a moral point that is very counter to the positive good law reward system built into Dungeons & Dragons. In a noir world, making the correct or moral decision is often punished. Sam Spade sends his girlfriend up the river for her crimes. Rick lets Ilsa get on that plane and fly out of his life. Forget it, Jake, its Chinatown. This is incredibly hard to pull off in a campaign of punishment of good where one of the core mechanics of its game system is to reward the players for doing the right things. So the approach to the technology of the world enticed, but I didn't think it delivered on the dark side of the coin.

I played in Eberron with my Thursday night crew - first with Relique, my warforged paladin (Ah, warforged, another nice and problematic thing they added to the D&D system) and then with Gomex "Go-Go" Gnozaria, my gnome artificer (I was trying to get beyond my traditional "dwarf fighter" at the time). It was a fun world (we took the Buck Rogers approach of never using the same mode of transportation twice), and I really should check out what they did when they distilled it down to 4th Edition.

More later,