While Eberron may be a new campaign setting, it's a world created with a lot of history. A good amount of Eberron's past will be slowly discovered and revealed as time goes on. But when the Eberron Campaign Setting releases, you'll find yourself exploring and adventuring in a world caught up in the aftermath of a terrible war that darkened the world for a hundred years and more.
Recent History of Eberron
As the campaign begins, Eberron emerges from a long and devastating war. The nations of the continent of Khorvaire were once part of a great kingdom of legend, the mighty kingdom of Galifar. When King Jarot died, his five heirs, each in command of one of the Five Nations that comprised the kingdom, refused to bow to tradition. Instead of allowing the eldest son to take the crown, the siblings rallied their vassals and each vied to take control of the kingdom. Over time, this decades-long conflict became known as the Last War, for everyone imagined that when it finally ended the taste for bloodshed and battle would be wiped from the face of Khorvaire.
The Last War continued for more than a century, with each of the Five Nations alternately fighting against or alongside one or more of the others as alliances and animosities shifted as fast as the wind in the Shargon Straits. In time, other nations formed as deals were made and opportunities presented themselves. After 102 years of fighting, the leaders of the recognized nations of Khorvaire (which now numbered twelve) met at the ancient capital of Galifar to draft a peace. With the signing of the Treaty of Thronehold, the Last War came to an end.
Today, the nations of Khorvaire seek to rebuild and prosper as the new peace spreads across the land. While technically at peace, the nations continue to vie for economic and political supremacy. Minor skirmishes break out every so often, especially in the more remote sections of the continent and on the most hotly contested borders. Espionage and sabotage are the preferred method of diplomacy, as the nations engage in trade and discussion in public while working intrigues and double-crosses in the shadows.
Another chunk of knowledge you'll find useful and/or interesting about the world of Eberron is how its cosmology works. That is, where Eberron fits in with the other planes of existence. Interestingly, planar travel in the Eberron Campaign Setting is somewhat different from other settings in which you may have adventured, because the option to shift from one plane to another is not always an option. Each of the other planes that exist in the Eberron Campaign Setting is accessible to or from Eberron only during certain periods of time. These windows of opportunity vary from plane to plane in both their duration and frequency, as you'll discover when you check out this excerpt from Chapter 5:
(Launch Eberron Orrery)
See the planes in motion!
Planes of Existence
Eberron spins within its own Material Plane, enfolded by three coexistent transitive planes: the Ethereal Plane, the Plane of Shadow, and the Astral Plane, just as in the core D&D cosmology (see Chapter 5 in the Dungeon Master's Guide).
Within Eberron's Astral Plane, thirteen planes spin in a complex orbit around the Material Plane. These planes combine the features of inner and outer planes: some have an elemental nature, some have alignment tendencies, and others are simply alien worlds. These planes are home to all the extraplanar creatures detailed in the Monster Manual. In contrast to the core D&D cosmology, these planes are not the home of the deities, and only one of them, Dolurrh, is a plane where mortal spirits go upon their death.
The thirteen orbiting planes are separate from each other, with no connections between them. They are coexistent with the Astral Plane, but separate from the Ethereal Plane and the Plane of Shadow, so certain spells (ethereal jaunt and shadow walk, for example) aren't available to casters on these planes. Each of them occasionally becomes coterminous with the Material Plane, allowing connections between the planes (see Planar Connections, below).
As the thirteen planes move through the Astral Plane, their paths take them closer to the Material Plane at times, and farther away at other times. A plane's distance from the Material Plane is described in three categories:
Coterminous: On rare occasions, a plane comes so near the Material Plane that it actually touches it. At these times, it is possible to move freely between the Material Plane and the coterminous plane at certain locations on each plane. For example, when Fernia is coterminous to the Material Plane, a character can travel to Fernia by means of a volcano or any extremely hot fire -- and the natives of Fernia can enter Eberron just as easily. Different planes' paths through the Astral Plane bring them into a coterminous relationship with varying frequency: Fernia draws near fairly often (one month every four years), while Xoriat has not done so in over 7,000 years.
When a plane is coterminous with the Material Plane, certain of its traits may bleed over into the Material Plane, or at least certain regions of the Material Plane. For example, when Risia is coterminous to the Material Plane, spells with the cold descriptor are enhanced in certain areas of the Material Plane. Not all planes have traits that spill over to the Material Plane.
Waxing/Waning: As a plane draws close to becoming coterminous it is called waxing, and as it moves away after a period of being coterminous it is waning. There are no special effects on the Material Plane when a plane is waxing or waning.
Remote: When a plane is remote, it is difficult to establish any connection at all between it and the Material Plane. When Fernia is remote, fire spells work less effectively, fire elementals are hard to summon, and it is nearly impossible to reach that plane via plane shift. Using plane shift to travel to a remote plane or using any spell to call or summon a native of that plane requires a Spellcraft check (DC 30 + spell level); a character with 5 or more ranks in Knowledge (the planes) receives a +2 circumstance bonus on this check.
The Planes in Play: Sages and astronomers of Eberron use complex orreries and extensive charts to track the position of the planes relative to Eberron. No DM should have to go to such lengths. For simplicity in play, bring a given plane into a coterminous position when it suits the needs of your campaign. If consistency is important to you, keep track of when that occurred and when it will happen again, using the information in each plane's description. If not, don't worry about it -- just bring it back into a coterminous position the next time it suits your campaign.
The planes spend most of the time either waxing or waning, so it is safe to assume that, any time it matters, the PCs can summon whatever monster they want to without making a Spellcraft check and even travel to another plane using plane shift as they desire. Only put as much effort into tracking the planar positions as the needs of your campaign demand.
The Cosmology of Eberron
Daanvi, the Perfect Order
Orderly fields where formians tend ideal crops, regimented garrisons of disciplined soldiers, and peaceful communities where law reigns supreme manifest throughout the plane of Daanvi, the Perfect Order. Similar in many respects to the plane of Arcadia in the D&D cosmology, Daanvi is a place where all things live in harmony born of order.
Dal Quor, the Region of Dreams
When mortals dream, they psychically project their minds to Dal Quor, the plane where dreams play out. Dal Quor is ringed with dreamscapes -- small, temporary envelopes of pseudoreality where dreamers live their dreams for a short time. Within the ring, however, exists an entirely different world.
Magnificent domed cities called up from the formless void of dreamstuff spread across the inside of the ring of dreamscapes, allowing the quori who live there easy access to their food supply -- the psychic energy of dreaming mortals. Beyond the cities of the quori, a roiling boil of dream-born landscapes melt, burn, grow, and dissolve without any rhyme or reason. Tales persist of a calm eye at the center of this storm, but they are most likely figments of some half-remembered dream.
Dolurrh, the Realm of the Dead
A place of hopelessness, eternal despair, and consuming apathy, Dolurrh is the realm where mortal souls go after death.
Fernia, the Sea of Fire
Flame covers everything on Fernia, the Sea of Fire. The ground is nothing more than great, ever-shifting plates of compressed flame, ash, and debris. The air ripples with the heat of continual firestorms. Oceans of liquid flame ebb and flow, and mountains ooze with molten lava. Fire rages, with no need for fuel or air, across this continually burning landscape.
Irian, the Eternal Day
A brilliant white sun hangs in the center of a crystalline sky, bathing the radiant landscape below in shadowless light. Forests of crystalline growths, mountains of pure quartz, rivers of liquid glass, and sun-bleached deserts of pure white sand define the landscape of this plane.
Irian is awash in positive energy -- not so intense as to harm life, but sufficient to encourage and sustain life in a variety of unusual forms. Creatures of light and life make their home here, but not necessarily creatures of good.
Kythri, the Churning Chaos
A roiling soup of land, water, air, protoplasmic ooze, fire, magma, hissing steam, smoke, dust, ice, blinding light, pitch darkness, acid, flashing lightning, cacophonous sound, and seemingly every other substance and energy found in the universe fills the plane of Kythri. Every part of the plane constantly changes. A creature, native or just visiting, can sometimes exert enough will to hold a location constant and stable -- for a short time.
Lamannia, the Twilight Forest
Lamannia, the Twilight Forest, is a realm of raw and wild nature unbounded, untouched by civilization. Despite its name, the forests that stretch in all directions are not the only terrain feature of the plane; majestic mountains, wide grasslands, sultry swamps, rolling hills, and even deserts and tundras make up the vibrant life of Lamannia. All kinds of plants, animals, magical beasts, and bestial outsiders are found in the Twilight Forest, as well as air, earth, and water elementals. Lycanthropes, too -- rare on Eberron -- are common in Lamannia, since many fled to this plane during the crusade that nearly exterminated them from Khorvaire.
Lamannia has the following traits:
Enhanced magic: Druid spells are extended.
Lamannia Inhabitants: Achaierai, animals (all), arrowhawk (all), belker, celestial animals, bebilith (demon), hellcat (devil), air elemental (all), earth elemental (all), water elemental (all), fiendish animals, djinni (genie), avoral (guardinal), leonal (guardinal), hellwasp swarm, invisible stalker, lycanthropes (all), air mephit, dust mephit, earth mephit, ooze mephit, salt mephit, water mephit, nightmare, thoqqua, tojanida (all), vermin (all), xorn (all), yeth hound.
Manual of the Planes: dao (genie), marid (genie), ooze paraelemental (all), smoke paraelemental (all).
Coterminous: When Lamannia is coterminous with the Material Plane, the power of nature grows. In regions of unspoiled nature (particularly the Eldeen Reaches), plants grow more verdant and animals breed more prolifically. Summon nature's ally spells are extended throughout the Material Plane.
Lamannia is coterminous for a period of one week every 13 months.
Remote: When Lamannia is remote from the Material Plane, nature's power diminishes. Animals have small litters and plants -- even cultivated crops -- grow poorly. Summon nature's ally spells are impeded during this time. Lamannia is remote for a period of one week every thirteen months, exactly 6-1/2 months after its coterminous period.
Mabar, the Endless Night
Utter blackness where no light shines fills the plane of Mabar, the Endless Night. The starless night lasts forever, its gloom never diminishing in the least. The darkness literally devours the life of visitors to this plane, extinguishing every spark of light that dares intrude upon the Endless Night.
Risia, the Plain of Ice
A blizzard above a field of blowing snow that covers an infinite glacier, Risia consists of layer upon layer of cold and ice. Though mountains break the line of the plain here and there, they are formed of solid ice, not stone. Lakes and streams mark the landscape, but they are simply places where the air itself has congealed to frigid liquid, deadly to the touch. The air of Risia freezes the eyes and lungs, the wind steals breath, and the snow buries and entombs all things.
Shavarath, the Battleground
Three great armies mass eternally on the barren plains of Shavarath: a celestial host of archons, an infernal regiment of devils, and a swarming horde of demons. Warfare defines all aspects of their existence. Alliances come and go -- usually involving the devils allying with one or the other of their enemies and then breaking the alliance when the situation changes to their advantage -- but the warfare never ends. Slain soldiers eventually return, usually in a lower form, but the armies of the three forces remain forever in a rough balance.
Fortresses dot the landscape of Shavarath, each one locked in a great siege. Every fortress eventually falls, and they all shift hands many times before finally being reduced to rubble. As one collapses, a new one is built to replace it. Beyond these fortresses, the rocky and barren landscape stretches in all direction, sporadically accentuated by low hills -- the only distinguishable terrain anywhere on the plane.
Shavarath has the following traits:
Alignment traits: Areas held by the archons are mildly good-aligned and mildly lawful-aligned. Areas held by the devils are mildly evil-aligned and mildly lawful-aligned. Areas held by the demons are mildly chaos-aligned and mildly evil-aligned. These areas shift constantly, the borders as fluid as the tide of war.
Enhanced magic: Spells that create, enhance, or mimic weapons (such as flame blade, keen edge, or Mordenkainen's sword), and spells that excite hostile emotions (such as rage, heroism, or antipathy) are extended.
Impeded magic: Compulsions that calm or pacify hostile creatures, and all charms, are impeded.
Whirling Blades: Creatures not native to Shavarath are subject to attack by whirling blades that travel the plane like flocks of birds. An attack occurs every round once a flock of whirling blades is encountered (70% chance): attack bonus +10 melee (2d6). The blades are treated as magic and evil-aligned weapons for the purpose of bypassing damage reduction.
Shavarath Inhabitants: Hound archon, trumpet archon, babau (demon), dretch (demon), glabrezu (demon), hezrou (demon), marilith (demon), quasit (demon), retriever (demon), barbed devil, bearded devil, bone devil, chain devil, erinyes (devil), horned devil, imp (devil), vargouille.
Monster Manual II: Bladeling.
Coterminous: When Shavarath draws near, echoes of its endless battles manifest on the Material Plane. In any area embroiled in combat, the enhanced and impeded magic traits of Shavarath spill onto the Material Plane (impeded spells require a Spellcraft check, DC 15 + spell level to cast). Also, storms of whirling blades are known to appear at the sites of great battles, both past and present, when Shavarath is coterminous.
Shavarath is coterminous with the Material Plane for one year out of every thirty-six years.
Remote: When Shavarath is remote, no known effects manifest on the Material Plane.
Dragon Magazine #318
For more insight into the world of Eberron, check out Dragonmagazine for the next installation of a six-part monthly series: "Countdown to the EberronCampaign Setting."
Issue #318 (that's the April issue, which goes on sale this month) takes a long, hard look at the fourth unique character race created especially for the EberronCampaign Setting: a sentient race of constructs known as the warforged.
Issue #317 (March) introduces you to three of the unique character races created especially for the EberronCampaign Setting: Changelings, the Kalashtar, and Shifters (with a close look at shifters), along with a glimpse at how all the standard character races fit into the new world.
Issue #316 (February) gives you an idea of how all of the standard character classes fit in the setting, introduces you to an all-new character class -- the Artificer -- and introduces you to another of the setting's prestige classes: the master inquisitive.
Issue #315 (January) offers more insight into the tone and attitude of the new D&D world, along with a little of Eberron's most recent history.
Syrania, the Azure Sky
Crystalline cities float in Syrania's endless expanse of clear blue sky, their spires glittering in the ambient radiance of its perfect atmosphere. These cities are the homes of the angels -- each ruled by a solar. Angels are the only known inhabitants of this plane, and -- though little is known of Syrania -- it seems to be a nearly perfect paradise.
Thelanis, the Faerie Court
Similar to both Eberron and Lamannia, Thelanis is a realm of rugged natural beauty -- primarily lush forests and crystal-clear waters. Among the trees rise shadowy spires of enchanting beauty, surrounded by mesmerizing lights like dancing lanterns. Phosphorescence gleams on plants and stones, lighting the eternal twilight of the plane, while a panoply of stars twinkle in the sky.
Xoriat, the Realm of Madness
Beyond words or comprehension, Xoriat is aptly called the Realm of Madness. Not only do its alien geometry and unspeakable inhabitants seem like the product of a madman's nightmare, but any who visit Xoriat risk finding their minds shattered by the experience.
Xoriat has been likened to a stack of translucent parchment, an apparently infinite connection of layers and dimensions. Its inhabitants exist on multiple layers simultaneously. Massive, drifting entities too large to notice visitors to the plane; free-floating rivers of milk-white liquid; rains of blue globes falling from unseen heights, only to burst and release horse-sized ticks when they strike another object -- such are the madness-inducing features of Xoriat. Gelatinous worms wriggle from layer to layer, wending through tentacled vegetation encrusted with orange moss, all suspended above an amoebic sea. Over this mad realm the daelkyr are absolute masters.
Like Dal Quor, Xoriat's last period of being coterminous with the Material Plane was a disastrous period of warfare. Over seven thousand years ago, Xoriat became coterminous and the daelkyr sent their minions into Khorvaire to conquer it. Before the orc and hobgoblin druids known as the Gatekeepers managed to end the planes' alignment, the mind flayers and lesser minions of the daelkyr had decimated the hobgoblin empire of Dhakaan. The Gatekeepers' magic was less cataclysmic than the giants' attempt to close the connection to Dal Quor, however; Xoriat moved quickly out of alignment but is sure to return one day.
This June, you'll be able to pick up and start exploring the EberronCampaign Setting. Every month until then, we'll offer up more material to help you get an even better idea of what you'll encounter when you do. Next month, you'll get a good, hard look at the Kalashtar, a unique race created for the EberronCampaign Setting that possesses natural psionic abilities. I'll also give you an idea of how and where psionics fit into the world.
About the Author
Mat Smith is a copywriter who's been playing roleplaying games for a disturbing number of years, and now gets to spend an astonishing amount of time thinking about clever ways to get more people to do the same.