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Random Dialogue: DDO, Eberron, And I
Dialogue, 2004-07-14

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One trip to the Origins Gamefest and the wedding of a good friend later, I'm going to be back on the regular with the Random Dialogue column. Assuming that moving to a new apartment and Gen Con don't get to me this coming month. Ahem. Anyway, before I left for Origins I picked up the main book for the new Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting, Eberron. As you may or may not already be aware, Eberron is going to be the setting for the Dungeons and Dragons Online game being developed by Turbine. The campaign setting is set on the continent of Khorvaire, which just recently finished up a century-long war between the former members of a great nation. The MMOG is going to take place on the continent to the south of Khorvaire, known as X'endrik. You know all of this, of course. Both the MMOG and the RTS are going to be centered in X'endrik, as Wizards of the Coast enjoys the profits it can snag from Keith Baker's new campaign setting. Without the hangups that come with doing a Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk game, these forays into digital media can be as great or as poor as the designers want them to be, and there will be a minimum of expectations going into the experience.

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Having read through the Eberron setting, I will admit to being intrigued. The stated goal of the setting is to provide a more pulp-action feel than in the high fantasy settings Wizards has been supporting so far. Magic-Technology like the "Lightning Rail" and the addition of a game mechanic called "action points" will allow players to go farther and do more quicker than in a typical campaign. There was also a deliberate choice on the part of the game designers to make the standard setting more low-powered. As opposed to the likes of Oerth and Faerun, Eberron has a definate lack of high level NPCs. Many of the most powerful fighers, wizards, etc. perished in the "Last War", that raged for over a century. In the wake of the war, many countries are run by characters in the low teens. PC classes (as opposed to the NPC classes like warrior and adept) are much rarer as well, making Player Characters truly stand out. I like the idea of this setting. It's going to be an interesting backdrop against which to play a game, I think, and I'm planning on running a game in the setting sometime early next year.

So now that I've bored everyone who's not into Pen and Paper gaming....what kind of Massive game setting is Eberron going to make? Well, there are plenty of interesting factions to get involved with. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of working for institutions like the thieves guild. If it's a guild of theives, wouldn't you think the law would be a little more crackdowny? Anyway, in Eberron you'll have options all along the moral spectrum to choose from. There is a fanatical church called the Order of the Silver flame, which has already burned away most of the lycanthropic population of the world and seeks to do more. There is the necromantic cult, The Blood of Vol, which seeks to reestablish a noble household. There are demon cults, dragon conspiracies, and merchant bands. Above them all are the Dragonmarked houses, a group of mercantile "families" which control various aspects of trade through their magic-bestowing symbols, the Dragonmarks. Tired of elves and dwarves? Eberron boasts four interesting new player races which could make it into the game. Two are sort of subspecies of monster races, the shifters and the changelings. The shifters have lycanthropic heritage, while the changelings are descended from dopplegangers. For a more esoteric character, the psionically gifted Kalashtar can be played. These creatures are the physical emobdyments of extradimensional beings from the realm of dreams and nightmares. Most interestingly (I think) are the organic constructs known as the warforged. These mechanical creatures, created in the last days of the Last War, are a whole race unto themselves.

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Beyond the colourful characters and organizations, the continent of X'endrik sounds like it will be a ripe spot for the MMOG. It's basically undocumented in the basic campaign setting, leaving open ends aplenty for the Turbine designers to explore. The only details known about the continent lie in it's past. At one point the continent was home to a civilization of giants, advanced and powerful in magic and governance. They were attacked brutally from one of the magical planes that orbit and collide with Eberron. In repelling the invaders and severing the connection from Eberron to the magical realm, the Giants' civilization was destroyed. They are now nothing more than roaming bands of backwater nomads. The remains of their civilization lie scattered in the deep forests and jungles of X'endrik, just waiting for adventurers to brave monsters and catacombs. The only real civilization on the continent is an outpost on the northern part of the continent, where the major factions fortify expeditions into the interior. This "frontier" mentality, along with their stated goal to make server populations very low, will make for a very intimate gaming environment. You and some of your pals can hook up and search through the remains of an ancient capitol for magic not used in centuries, all for the benefit of a merchant lord back in Khorvaire. Or perhaps you'll go prospecting for dragonshards, the valuable natural magic that fuels much of Eberron's society? The possibility for all that, plus drow assassins, giant bands, scheming dragons, and undead elves all lie in the Eberron setting.

I hope I've given you a feel for the background that the Dungeons and Dragons Online game will draw on. There should be some more news on the game by the end of the summer, so stay with MMORPGDot as we all find out where the game will take us!

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Images copyright 2004 Wizards of the Coast.

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