The Player's Handbook II sourcebook provides new classes, character options, and inspiration for Dungeons & Dragons players. The majority of this material is setting-neutral. The chapters on building character identity, developing adventuring groups, and rebuilding characters are universal and equally useful to all players and Dungeon Masters.
When it comes to new feats, spells, and class options, DM and player should work together to decide how to add this new material into the campaign. A DM may choose to make all of these options available to all characters, with no need for special training. Alternatively, a DM may wish to restrict new material to certain cultures or organizations, requiring a character to seek out a mentor of that culture to take advantage of the option.
New Character Classes
Player's Handbook II presents four new classes for player characters: the cunning beguiler, the stoic dragon shaman, the deadly duskblade, and the bold knight. While a character of any race or background can choose one of these paths, each class is well suited to certain cultures and nations; here are a few suggestions to help place these classes in the world. Bear in mind that characters with PC classes are always remarkable; while the beguiler is an excellent match for the Royal Eyes of Aundair, the majority of the Royal Eyes will be mundane experts or expert/beguilers. A high-level beguiler is an exceptional agent and a worthy adversary for the PCs.
The beguiler specializes in stealth and deception, merging mundane skill with a versatile selection of spells. A beguiler makes an exceptional spy; in addition to her talent for illusion and enchantment, spells such as detect thoughts, clairaudience/clairvoyance, and sending allow her to pluck information from enemy strongholds and relay it back to her superiors. In a world where magic has long been part of civilization, a few organizations are especially likely to produce beguilers. A player character could begin as an agent of one of these forces; alternatively, one of these groups may recognize her talents and seek to recruit her over the course of a campaign.
Among the common races, one of the oldest beguiler traditions is that of House Phiarlan -- a tradition now shared with House Thuranni. The Phiarlans were spies long before the Mark of Shadows appeared, and some of the practices of the Phiarlan beguilers date back to the fall of Xen'drik.
Given their natural gift for illusions and love of intrigue, it should come as no surprise that the gnomes of Zilargo make excellent beguilers. While many Zil gnomes prefer the path of the bard, the talents of the beguiler are better suited for pure espionage; as a result, many of the top corliganos ("roving ears") of the Trust are beguilers.
Within the Five Nations, Aundair has the longest tradition of arcane magic, and the Royal Eyes of Aundair has been building an elite corps of beguilers. While beguilers exist in other nations, the spies of Breland and Karrnath typically prefer the raw skill and deadly sneak attack of the rogue to the arcane tricks of the beguiler.
Not all beguilers are spies, and not all develop their gifts as a result of training. In Droaam and the Shadow Marches, a few children spontaneously manifest beguiler talents; traditionally, these gifts are seen as the touch of the Dark Six, and these youths are often claimed by priests and raised to revere the Six. These natural beguilers are known as sheelidar -- "six-fingered hands" -- and a few actually do have an extra digit on hands and feet. While they are taught to use their powers in the service of the Dark Six, sheelidar are not always evil; many simply believe that the Six are wild and primal forces, and that the civilized followers of the Sovereign Host are afraid of the passion and energy of the Six.
Finally, a few races in the Eberron setting often produce beguilers. Doppelgangers and changelings are foremost among these, and at the DM's discretion, a player with a changeling PC can take beguiler as his favored class instead of rogue. The other force known for its beguilers are the rakshasa. As the rakshasa are known as spirits of deception, a DM may chose to give a rakshasa the spellcasting abilities of a beguiler instead of a sorcerer -- although to gain any of the other class abilities of a beguiler, the rakshasa will need to take levels in the class.
The Dragon Shaman
Though rarely seen, dragons are known across Eberron as symbols of magic and power. The dragon shaman exists in many different cultures. Some worship the first children of Eberron and Siberys, while others simply seek the power of these mighty creatures. A few of these forces are described below.
The barbarians of the Seren Islands produce a remarkable number of dragon shamans. Each of the Seren tribes reveres a draconic founder, and those shamans who can draw on the strength of the founder are considered truly blessed. Many of the most gifted dragon shamans follow a call into the heart of Aerenal itself; some say that these heroes serve in the kingdom of wyrms, while others believe that they are sent out into the wider world to do the bidding of their dragon masters.
Many know the legend of the Storm Guardians, the clan of blue dragons who are said to live atop the highest peak in Adar and to protect the land from its enemies. But another tale that few beyond Adar have heard sometimes gets passed along in whispers among those of Adar. A hidden valley high on Korrandar is home to an order of monks chosen long ago by the first Guardians. According to the tale, these monks study the ways of the dragon until they become dragons themselves; if the legend is true, some of the dragons soaring above the clouds of Adar are dragon shamans who have undergone a remarkable apotheosis. A few bold adventures have gone in search of this Valley of Dragons; to date, none have returned.
There are many different interpretations of the Sovereign Host. One cult asserts that the Sovereigns are in fact dragons, children of the first age who ascended to a state beyond mortal understanding. Priests of this sect may become dragon shamans instead of clerics or adepts, assuming the traits of their divine patron. For example, a shaman dedicated to Aureon would take the blue dragon as his patron. The dragons associated with the Sovereigns can be found on pages 68-69 of the Eberron Campaign Setting. At the moment this is an obscure sect, but recently the cult has been gaining support in Stormreach.
In the Shadow Marches, tales speak of the duraak'al, warriors with the strength of the black dragon. Such orcs are said to carry the blessing of the dragon Vvaraak, the wyrm who prepared the orcs for the war against Xoriat. Today the duraak'al are a thing of legend . . . but it's always possible those legends will rise again!
Dragon shamans are also found among the kobolds, where they vie with sorcerers for positions of spiritual leadership. Finally, tales from Q'barra suggest that dragon shamans exist among the lizardfolk of that distant tribe -- priests who revere the dragon Rhashaak as a living god.
While it may seem that dragon shamans who adopt the physical traits of their totems will stand out in Khorvaire, there are many strange things in the world. In a land where shifters and changelings are part of daily life, and ogres, gargoyles, and even medusas live or travel within major cities, a human with faint scales isn't terribly noteworthy. A dragon shaman can stand out in a crowd, but she is unlikely to suffer any sort of prejudice due to her appearance.
According to the Player's Handbook II, the alignment of a dragon shaman must be within one step of the dragon he emulates. However, in Eberron, the alignment of a dragon is not fixed by its color -- nor are worshipers traditionally bound by the alignment of their deities. As such, a DM may wish to remove the alignment restriction. With that said, dragon shamans should typically follow the perceived alignment of their draconic patrons. For example, although blue dragons can be any alignment, the Storm Guardians of Adar are seen as noble beings -- so a dragon shaman who emulates these blue wyrms will usually be good.
The duskblade combines magic with the art of war. The Player's Handbook II describes the duskblade as an elf tradition, and this certainly fits in Eberron. Some of the greatest heroes of the ancient elf-giant conflict were duskblades, and today these arcane warriors work both among the champions of Aerenal and the Tairnadal elves of Valenar, where they ride side by side with rangers and true wizards.
However, the elves aren't the only culture to produce duskblades. A recent Morgrave expedition has produced evidence suggesting that the giants had duskblades of their own. Before the Inspired conquest of Sarlona, duskblades existed in the human kingdom of Ohr Kaluun; this tradition may have survived among the refugees of this fallen land, either in the depths of the Lhazaar Principalities, the monasteries of Adar, or the crumbling war mazes of Ohr Kaluun itself.
Finally, the duskblade is ideally suited to the martial sensibilities of Aundair, which combines a deep respect for magic with a love for flair and color in battle. While Aundair has yet to produce a duskblade who can match the masters of Aerenal and Valenar, a player character could prove to be the exception to this rule!
In the golden age of Galifar, noble knights existed across Khorvaire. In the wake of the Last War, knights still live in any land, but the flower of chivalry blooms in two nations that remain bitter rivals -- Thrane and Karrnath. Both nations have always held discipline and martial excellence in high regard, and both favor styles of combat well suited to the knight; Thrane's heavy cavalry is unequalled in the land, while the armored infantry of Karrnath is rightfully feared by all. By contrast, while one can find knights in the other five nations, Aundair's love of magic often distracts from the pure martial discipline of the knight, while the pragmatic Brelish often let honor slide for the sake of expediency. Only a handful of Cyran knights survived the Mourning, but these proud soldiers are often remarkable individuals; having lost their land, all they have left is their honor, and they will not lose that too.
While great tension exists between the common people of Thrane and Karrnath, the knights of these two lands often hold one another in high regard; they may be enemies, but at least they are worthy opponents. Recently, King Kaius III has been working with Flamekeep to arrange a series of grand melees, in the hopes of strengthening this bond and furthering the cause of peace.
Beyond the Five Nations, a few of the dwarves of Clan Mroranon adopted the traditions of the knight for Karrnath during the Last War; in the wake of the Mror secession, a bitter rivalry often flares up between dwarf and Karrnathi knights. A few knights are among the Valenar, but less than one might expect to find in that martial culture. In their war against the giants, the elves of old found themselves relying on commando tactics; thus more elves follow the path of the ranger or scout.
Expanded Classes and New Feats
Player's Handbook II presents new options for every class, along with a host of new feats. At the DM's discretion, these options could be available to all characters; any barbarian could choose berserk strength in place of rage, regardless of the traditions of his tribe. But certain cultures and organizations may be especially prone to their use; a few examples are given below.
Arcane Thesis. In Khorvaire, Arcane Thesis is typically seen among the wizards of the Arcane Congress; the long magical traditions of Aundair help those who choose to focus on a specific field of study. Beyond Khorvaire, the elves of Aerenal are also fond of Arcane Thesis, reflecting their obsession with perfecting specific skills.
The Blood of Vol. The followers of the Blood of Vol place a tremendous importance on the spiritual power of blood. As such, priests of the Blood of Vol should be eligible to take the Ritual Blood Bond feat, regardless of race. This bond of blood also can be reflected with the Divine Ward feat, allowing priests of the blood to aid their followers from a distance. Finally, many clerics of the Blood of Vol use the spontaneous domain casting option (page 37), usually focusing on the Necromancer domain.
The Church of the Silver Flame. As a religion of light, Sacred Purification and Sacred Radiance are especially appropriate for clerics of the Silver Flame. While many of the priests of Thrane are often experts instead of adepts or clerics, several do possess the Ritual Blessing feat, which allows them to aid their followers.
House Ghallanda. While the House of Hospitality is often seen as a harmless force, heirs of the house are often exceptionally skilled at the arts of conversation. Both Master Manipulator and Wanderer's Diplomacy are often used by Ghallanda characters.
House Vadalis. The House of Handling is interested in all forms of interaction between magic and the animal world. While many war-wizards of the Five Nations prefer Immediate Magic (page 68), wizards of House Vadalis invariably possess familiars, and the house is an excellent place to learn the familiar-enhancing feats presented in Player's Handbook II.
Infernal and Celestial Sorcerers. While there is limited traffic between Eberron and the Outer Planes, there are many ways to use these feats. A sorcerer born in a manifest zone may develop heritage feats in spite of there being no blood connection to an outsider. A celestial sorcerer may channel the power of the Silver Flame, being a living link to this divine force. Likewise, it's possible that the sorcerer actually has been touched by the pure power of Khyber or Siberys, becoming a vessel for the light or darkness of the world itself. An infernal sorcerer will have an easy time finding a place within the Cults of the Dragon Below or working with the Lords of Dust; a celestial sorcerer might work with a church or the Chamber, or find her own path.
The Mironite Monks. Almost unknown outside of Thrane, the Mironite monks are a sect of martial ascetics who have learned to channel the power of the Silver Flame through their own flesh and spirit. On Khorvaire, the Mironites are the primary users of the Fiery Fist, Fiery Ki Defense, and Ki Blast feats.
The Sovereign Host. Since priests of the Sovereign Host can turn to many deities for inspiration, they can use almost any of the new feats presented in Player's Handbook II. A paladin of Dol Arrah may use Divine Justice or Sacred Radiance, while a cleric sworn to Dol Dorn is more likely to draw on Divine Armor. Clerics who are particularly dedicated to a specific Sovereign typically use the Spontaneous Domain Casting option; a cleric of Onatar has little talent for healing.
War Magic of Karrnath. Recognizing the power of Aundair, the wizards of Karrnath have fought to ramp up their own war magic over the last few decades. While Karrnathi wizards often lack the finesse and scholarly nature of their Aundairian counterparts, they are grim and determined. Arcane Toughness and Arcane Consumption are both techniques employed by the Karrns, along with the new metamagic feats presented in the Player's Handbook II. The majority of Karrnathi wizards use the Immediate Magic class option; in times of war, a familiar often gets in the way.
Weapon Supremacy. No known hero possesses this level of skill, and a PC who attains this level of mastery should be celebrated far and wide for her remarkable talent. The last known supreme swordmaster within the Five Nations was Drago ir'Loran of Karrnath, who personally trained the young King Jarot before the Last War.
Of course, it's possible that beings out there may have this level of skill but have chosen to conceal it; there may be a zakya lord on the Council of Ashtakala who is waiting for the day when a mortal will learn the skills to actually prove a challenge with a blade.
The Zil. The gnomes of Zilargo are renowned for their love of intrigue and skill with alchemy. Master Manipulator and Wanderer's Diplomacy are both highly appropriate for Zil characters. In addition, Zilargo is a very logical place to find the Grenadier and Mad Alchemist feats. Zil bards love to weave magic and illusion into their performances, and the Arcane Flourish feat is a good way to represent this.
About the Author
Keith Baker has been an avid fan of the Dungeons & Dragons game since grade school. His life took a dramatic turn in 2002 when he submitted the World of Eberron to the Wizards of the Coast Fantasy Setting Search. In addition to developing the Eberron Campaign Setting and Shadows of the Last War for Wizards of the Coast, Inc., he has produced material for Atlas Games, Goodman Games, and Green Ronin.