Excerpts 08/03/2005

Explorer's Handbook Excerpt
By David Noonan, Rich Burlew, Frank Brunner

The Explorer's Handbook showcases the multi-continental aspect of the Eberron setting. The chapter on travel discusses instantaneous and played-out travel and provides deck plans for airships, the lightning rail, and galleons, plus other methods of conveyance. A chapter on Explorer's Essentials offers information on travel papers, preassembled equipment kits, how to join the Wayfarers' Foundation, and more. This handbook will encourage you to explore the entire world rather than remain fixed in one region. The excerpts below include information about the book itself, travel, the airship, the windwright captain prestige class, and the Khyber dragonshard cavern.


Stop what you're doing, put down this book, and go exploring! Why are you still reading? Don't you want to see the cyclopean ruins of ancient Xen'drik? The power -- and terror -- that awaits you at the Seals of Aaldrash? The gold-encrusted treasure hoards at Haka'torvhak?

Have you no soul for adventure? Are you dead inside?

I, Thunvarch, have been a bard and storyteller ever since I was a wee half-orc in the Shadow Marches. I've performed epics everywhere a kind ear will listen -- from a quiet tavern to a princely hall. And I can tell you one thing about my audiences. No matter who they are, from prince to potentate to pauper, they share one thing in common.

They're weary of war sagas.

All Khorvaire has had a century of war, and nothing earns me the cold shoulder -- and often the thrown tomato -- faster than yet another retelling of "The Valiant and the Vigilant" or "Charge of the Red Gauntlets." Frankly, my heart's not in it anymore. There's no point in getting people all riled up to march into Cyre or whatever. There isn't any Cyre left to march into, in any case.

The other night, I stood in front of a crowd that was hostile to what I thought was a tuneful rendition of "The Red Sunrise March." This was a crowd predisposed to get ugly, unless there's some local custom about bringing your extra axe handle to a performance with you. It was the noon matinee, so the lit torches were suspicious, too. So I improvised. I started making up a story about a gnome, a shifter, and a human who were exploring Xen'drik. Cannibalistic albino giants captured them. They escaped into a crumbling pyramid full of fiendish traps and rooms full of gold. They fought black-robed sorcerers with fiery eyes.

All a sudden, I wasn't seeing axe handles anymore. I was seeing open mouths. Every bard knows this: When their mouths are hanging open, you've got 'em. I escaped that benighted town with my skin intact and more than a little coin for my trouble.

People say I have no scruples, but that's not true. I have exactly one scruple, and I broke it that day: When you're telling a story, don't make stuff up. If you were to go out and explore something, though, I wouldn't have to make stuff up. I could tell a story about you! I'd tell stories of your bravery, skill, and wit from Regalport to Zarash'ak. I'd describe how you laugh at danger, how you scoff at peril, and how you'd tell bawdy jokes about Death itself if you got the chance. So put this book down! Explore something, so I can write an epic in your honor! (And if you can, bring a gnome along with you. No offense, but the kids in the audience like gnomes.)

I'm not alone. Across the Five Nations, hundreds of bards, minstrels, and storytellers are relying on you for their meat and drink -- and they aren't all as fleet of foot and quick of wit as Thunvarch. Some have small, adorable children to feed, and others have grumpy yet amusing grandparents to support. If you explore something, you'll support not only yourself but dozens of entertainers in the process. Please, won't you do it for the minstrels?

Against my wishes, you're apparently still reading this book rather than buying maps and rope. Which reminds me -- take it from Thunvarch: Maps never show the good stuff, and the answer to "Do we have enough rope?" is always "No!" So you can skimp a little on the maps, but spend your savings on rope.

Look at it this way: You are living in the dawn of an Explorer's Age. For the first time in a century, a border is something you cross, not something you fight over. The world has more than enough battle-tested heroes. Walk through the streets of Wroat or Rekkenmark, and you'll see what I mean. They're practically littered with monuments to war heroes. Do you think your grandchildren will be impressed that you've got a sword-wielding statue over your tomb? The only remembrances those statues attract are from pigeons.

If you're an explorer, on the other hand, you get to name stuff after yourself. Not just little stuff, either: mountains, rivers, islands, lost cities, you name it. Name a mountain after yourself, and that's immortality, my friend. And if you're wooing a fair maiden, "I named the tallest waterfall in Xen'drik after you" sure beats "I picked you some flowers." (Incidentally, if you're stuck for a name at some point, I'd point out "Mt. Thunvarch" rolls right off the tongue. Don't reply now; just keep it in the back of your mind.)

But I see you're still here! Arrgh! If you're still reading this, then apparently fame isn't enough of a draw for you. How about fortune? The giants of Xen'drik have magic treasures unfathomable to the most wizened sages, and I think we can all agree that gold is meant to glitter as you spend it in Sharn's finest drinking-houses, not tarnish in the dark. I've heard that Sarlona has clams that divulge black pearls as big as a human head -- or a halfling's head, at any rate.

Don't you want to roll that black pearl onto a House Kundarak desk and say, "Appraise this!" Can't you already taste that fine Aundairian wine, or feel the fine balance on your new, custom-ensorcelled magic sword? Admit it -- the explorer's trade is the only way you're going to get it, even in an elf's lifetime.

But right now the pearl is still in the clam, the wine is still in the cellar, and the sword is just another iron ingot. Do you know why? Because you're reading this book, not checking airship schedules and lightning rail maps! Why do you torture me so? Are you somehow immune to my silvery words and golden turns of phrase? Stop reading! Explore!

I'll make a final appeal, then -- one that aims at the chink in your armor: your pride. If you're still reading this, I'm forced to conclude that my words have been wasted. The very notion of braving the Straits of Shargon probably fills you with dread. I'll bet that merely seeing an airship overhead makes you queasy. Is that blade at your side strictly ceremonial? It doesn't look like it's seen much action lately.

Aha! That's more like it! But hurry -- I'm not going to pen an epic about the second person to visit the ancient fortress of the giants. Good luck -- and don't forget to bring rope!

Adventure awaits!

-- Thunvarch


The first question that needs to be answered in any expedition is simply, "Why do we need to go somewhere in the first place?" After all, travel can be as expensive as it is dangerous, while sitting in your cottage enjoying a fine roast turkey is much less likely to be either. On the other hand, an Eberron campaign does not tell stories of culinary satisfaction -- it recounts exciting adventures with action, suspense, and intrigue. Unless you have hired the most interesting and infamous chef ever, you're probably going to need to get up and about before encountering any of these situations.

Any trip will have a specific purpose behind it. It is all well and good to declare yourself an explorer, but some reason to explore this area over here, and not that area over there (at least not until later) is necessary to determine where you go and why. The means of choosing your destination will also play a large role in how your trip unfolds. While an endless number of reasons exist to leave home and explore the world, most can be put into one of four broad categories: exploration, prospecting, transport, and assault.


No one knows what's out there, so it's high time someone found out.

Your goal is simply to acquire knowledge, most often in the form of maps, though any cultural information you gather about the indigenous inhabitants of your destination can prove highly valuable as well. Often, such trips are chartered by parties interested enough in learning about the region to hand you large sums of gold for the privilege of getting them there and back alive. The main advantage of exploration is having no time limit -- you are free to take as long as you wish to map each area. You also won't generally need to haul back a massive bounty of looted goods, which makes the return trip much safer. The lost continent of Xen'drik is the best choice for this sort of trip, since it is larger than Khorvaire but has had only a fraction of its lands mapped in modern times.

Argonnessen and the Demon Wastes are also mostly unexplored, but the dangers in those lands often outweigh the interest scholars have in mapping them. The Wayfinder Foundation and the Library of Korranberg are most likely to fund voyages of exploration, though the faculty at Morgrave University has been attempting to organize more academic expeditions as well.


If there's something valuable out there, let's bring back as much of it as possible.

Whatever the resource you're hunting for, a theoretically unending supply of it exists somewhere on Eberron. There's usually no specific time frame for completing a prospecting journey, though a general sense of urgency might prevail. Whoever is looking to purchase your found goods would probably prefer that you return sooner than later, but would also prefer you to return loaded down rather than empty-handed. Depending on the resource sought, this kind of trip might involve an extended stay in a previously unexplored region once a deposit is discovered.

As well, your trip home might be as dangerous as the original expedition, since pirates often seek to seize ships returning to civilized lands with valuable cargo. Xen'drik is a prime choice for prospecting for Siberys dragonshards, and a journey deep underground in search of Khyber dragonshards can be as lucrative as it dangerous. Almost every power group on Eberron seeks dragonshards for some purpose, so it is generally easy to find a patron for such a mission (with the Finders Guild of House Tharashk devoted exclusively to this task). Unfortunately, the high demand for dragonshards also means a high probability of competing prospectors, some of whom might sabotage your expedition. Soarwood is another valuable commodity that can be difficult to find, and the shipyards of Zilargo pay handsomely for the buoyant wood from which they fashion airships and elemental galleons.


Here's something that needs to be someplace else; take it there.

Sometimes you need to travel not to an unknown destination, but to a well known one through uncertain territory. Your job is not only to move your cargo but also to protect it from bandits or any other party interested in intercepting it. The nature of the cargo will determine the danger level -- simple trade goods are unlikely to attract attention from anything more deadly than a band of thieves, but if you're escorting a valuable artifact or a crown prince, you should plan for trouble. Time is almost always a factor in a transport mission; whatever you carry, chances are it needs to get to its destination quickly.

House Orien's Transportation Guild is always hiring adventurers for transport missions, escorting caravans to and from almost every settlement on Khorvaire. If the "cargo" is a person, then the Defenders Guild of House Deneith is a more likely employer. All supplies headed for the city of Stormreach on Xen'drik also need to be closely guarded, lest pirates or sahuagin raiders lay claim to them.


There's a threat to our way of life over there. Let's eliminate it.

On this sort of mission, you are expected to locate hostile forces and deal with them using whatever methods are appropriate. The incentive here is the end result, with the journey secondary to the act of subjugating the threat at hand. As a result, speed is often the foremost concern of an assault expedition (though remaining undetected is often as crucial). Obviously, such trips are inherently dangerous, though they can be impressively lucrative as well.

The governments of Khorvaire are always looking for clandestine agents to carry out secret missions in enemy territory. While the Last War is technically over, its many surviving nations still do not trust one another, and spying is rampant. For more pure-hearted adventurers, the Church of the Silver Flame actively organizes expeditions to root out evil creatures and vanquish them (even those far from Thrane itself).

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