Eberron is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, set in a period after a vast destructive war on the continent of Khorvaire. Eberron is designed to accommodate traditional D&D elements and races within a differently toned setting; Eberron combines a fantasy tone with pulp and dark adventure elements, and some non-traditional fantasy technologies such as trains, skyships, and mechanical beings which are all powered by magic.
Eberron was created by author and game designer Keith Baker as the winning entry for Wizards of the Coast's Fantasy Setting Search, a competition run in 2002 to establish a new setting for the Dungeons and Dragons game. Eberron was chosen from more than 11,000 entries, and was officially released with the publication of the Eberron Campaign Setting hardback book in June 2004. The campaign setting book was written by Baker, Bill Slavicsek, and James Wyatt.
In June 2005 the Eberron Campaign Setting book won the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Game Supplement of 2004.
One of the most obvious differences between Eberron and generic D&D is the level of magic. High-level magic, including resurrection spells, is less common than in most other settings. However, low-level magic is much more pervasive, primarily provided by the Dragonmarked Houses. Many cities have magical lanterns throughout the streets. A continent-spanning, magical "lightning rail" provides high speed transportation.
Alignment is slightly more muddied than in other official settings. Evil beings of traditionally good races and good beings of traditionally evil races are encouraged; but alignment definition remains true to D&D standards, with good and evil retaining their meanings. However, the situation often arises in the campaign world that oppositely aligned characters will side with each other briefly if a threat looms over all, and also both good and evil characters will infiltrate each others organizations for purposes of espionage.
Religion is similarly less clear-cut. The pantheon of Eberron does not make itself overtly known. The existence of divine magic is not evidence of the gods, as clerics who worship no deities but instead follow a path or belief system also receive spells. A cleric can even actively work against their own church and continue to receive spells. As a result, religion is largely a matter of faith. Unlike in many other 3rd edition D&D settings, a cleric does not have to be within one step of his deity's or religion's alignment, and is not restricted from casting certain spells because of alignment.
The setting adds a new base character class, the artificer. Artificers are spellcasters focusing on magical item creation. Artificer infusions (their equivalent to spells) focus on temporarily imbuing objects with the desired effects. For example, instead of casting bull's strength on a character, an artificer would cast it upon a belt to create a short term magical Belt of Bull's Strength. Artificers have access to a pool of "craft points" which act as extra experience points (only) for use in creating magical items without sacrificing level attainment. This pool is refilled when the artificer gains levels, or by draining power from an existing magical item (destroying the item in the process).
Eberron also introduces a new NPC class known as the magewright, which is an arcane caster who has a limited selection of low-level spells. The existence of magewrights is part of the reason for the prevalence of low-level magic in Eberron.
The Eberron setting primarily takes place in Khorvaire, a continent that was ruled by goblinoids of Dhakaan in ancient times. Humans are now the most populous race in Khorvaire, living primarily in the area known as the Five Nations. Southeast is the small continent of Aerenal, ruled by elves. Due south is the jungle continent of Xen'drik, once ruled by an empire of giants that collapsed, now largely wilderness, with some areas under tribal dominion of the drow. Frostfell is an unexplored land of ice in the north. The other two main continents are Sarlona (a continent ruled by quori, creatures from the Region of Dreams) and Argonnessen (a continent inhabited by dragons). The world of Eberron has twelve moons; some sages believe there is a thirteenth moon that has vanished or is invisible to the naked eye.
"Eberron" is also the name for the land of the world, and is also referred to as the Dragon Between. Siberys, the Dragon Above, is the name given to the planetary rings which surround the planet. Khyber, the Dragon Below, is the name given to the underworld, and is similar to the Underdark in many other settings. According to the creation story, the world was formed when the progenitor wyrms changed their form into what they are now. Siberys created the dragons, Eberron created humanoids and other "lower races", and Khyber created the "demons" of the world. (The term "demons" is meant to use the common definition, not the D&D outsider.) According to Keith Baker, there is some significance to the fact that each name contains "ber", but he has not stated what this is.
The most recent significant event in the Eberron Campaign Setting is an event called the Last War, so-called because the people of Khorvaire believed that after the war was over everybody would grow tired of war (much as World War I was known as "the war to end all wars"). Coincidentally, the Last War ended on the 11th Day of Aryth (the equivalent to November 11, the day Germany signed the Armistice officially ending World War I). It refers to a series of conflicts in Khorvaire over 102 years that began with a dispute over the throne of the Kingdom of Galifar and the ruling of the Five Nations.
Two years prior to the end of the Last War, the nation of Cyre was destroyed in an incident known as the Day of Mourning. (The Eberron Campaign Setting does not give an official cause for this disaster, but it had a similar effect to the atomic bombings that ended World War II. Even a magical "radiation" mutates flora and fauna alike, similar to stereotypical but inaccurate depictions of the results of the nuclear radiation.) This event helped expedite the end of the Last War. Now, the region that was once Cyre is referred to as the Mournland and is the home of living spells, preserved dead bodies, and a militant sect of warforged (see Races) led by one called the Lord of Blades whose avowed goal is the total domination of the continent by the warforged at the expense of all "flesh and blood" humanoids. Those in the Mournland do not heal naturally, and magical healing has no effect. For all these reasons, few people enter the region.
The Last War officially ended two years prior to the start of the campaign, with the Treaty of Thronehold, as each of the Five Nations and most of the nations that broke off during the war officially became independent.
The Dragonmarked Houses are thirteen extended families which control most business throughout Khorvaire. Within the houses, only a small percentage of every generation manifest dragonmarks, which are marks on the body that grant spell-like abilities to those born with them. These dragonmarks are designated by taking the Least, Lesser or Greater Dragonmark feat or taking levels in the Dragonmark Heir prestige class. There used to be thirteen dragonmarks but only twelve remain. Each family possesses only one type of mark, and only one or two races can manifest a particular type of mark. Additionally, only races listed in the Player's Handbook can manifest a dragonmark at all. With the exception of House Phiarlan and House Thuranni (which both possess the Mark of Shadow), each house exclusively has one type of dragonmark.
Dragonmarks come in five forms: aberrant, least, lesser, greater, and Siberys. Aberrant dragonmarks are deviations from normal marks and are not recognized by the dragonmarked houses. People who have aberrant dragonmarks are commonly believed to have been warped by Khyber, the Dragon Below. Least, lesser, and greater dragonmarks can be gained by taking the appropriate feats or taking levels in the Dragonmark Heir prestige class. These types of marks must be taken in order. The Siberys mark is the greatest mark, but someone cannot have both a least, lesser, or greater mark along with a Siberys mark. A Siberys mark is gained by taking the Heir of Siberys prestige class.
Another family line known as Vol possessed an additional dragonmark known as the Mark of Death, but that line was mostly destroyed in a conflict between dragons and other elves. Only one heir remains today (named Erandis d'Vol), but because she is a lich she cannot use her dragonmark. However, she tries to gather information to restore the mark through the Order of the Emerald Claw and the religion known as the Blood of Vol.
The worst punishment for a member of a dragonmarked house is called excoriation. It is similar to excommunication in that the other members of the house are not allowed to have any contact with the excoriate under threat of severe punishment themselves. Excoriates may not even avail themselves of the publicly-available services their house provides. Excoriation is the punishment for only the worst offenses that dishonor the house. In prior times, the house would actually flay the dragonmark from the person's body. If the person survived excoriation, the missing dragonmark would regrow on a different part of the body and continue to function, but its use caused severe pain to the person.
Religion in Eberron is based around the church and pantheons rather than a specific deity. A paladin might thus follow Dol Arrah first and foremost, but still be of the same faith (the Sovereign Host) as a wizard following Aureon. A paladin of the Silver Flame, on the other hand, belongs to a different religion and might have very different views on theological issues, although still devoted to the cause of law and good. Deities in Eberron are not in general specific to a race, although both elves and kalashtar have religions not commonly practiced by other races.
Like most other D&D campaign settings, Eberron has a number of planes. Besides the Prime Material Plane, the Ethereal Plane, the Plane of Shadow, and the Astral Plane, the Eberron Campaign Setting has thirteen relatively unique planes. Gates or portals to any of the planes are very rare. These thirteen planes metaphysically orbit around Eberron, and depending on their current location are considered in one of four states.
Also, certain places in Eberron have a manifest zone, which is a permanent connection to the plane regardless of the plane's distance from Eberron. Similar to when a plane is coterminous, certain effects of the plane appear in the manifest zone. However, unlike when a plane is coterminous, one cannot pass between planes in a manifest zone.
The most well-known manifest zone in Eberron is in the metropolis of Sharn, the City of Towers: this manifest zone to Syrania, the Azure Sky improves levitation and flying magic and allows for the buildings to reach the sky.
The number 13 plays an important role in Eberron, particularly in the form of "thirteen minus one", where a group of 13 lost one of its number, resulting in 12. Some examples are:
Note that the number 13 is known as a "baker's dozen." Because the phrase has an established use it is used as a play on the author's name.
Dragonshards are rock or crystal fragments originating from the three legendary dragons of Eberron's creation myth. The three sections of Eberron's world, Siberys, Eberron and Khyber, each produce a distinct form of dragonshard, with a unique appearance and distinct magic affinity. Dragonshards are among Eberron's most important resources. Their scarcity makes them valuable and a frequent goal of quests.
Dragonshards are hard, translucent rock or crystal fragments with swirling, pulsating veins of color suspended within them. The veins have the appearance of dragonmarks. Although dragonshards are translucent, their glowing veins give them a distinctive color and make them look almost alive.
Siberys shards fall from the Ring of Siberys that encircles Eberron. They are usually found in equatorial regions such as Xen'drik. They contain a pulsating swirl of golden veins. Siberys shards are the rarest type of dragonshard, and the type most closely associated with the dragonmarked houses. Because of their scarcity and importance to powerful groups, a new find of Siberys shards is often the focus of intrigue or theft. They are sometimes called sunstones or starmotes, or simply dragonshards, because of their association with the dragonmarked houses. Siberys shard items focus or enhance the power of dragonmarked characters, and can enhance psionic powers. Dragonmarked houses are of central importance to the economy and society of Khorvaire, so their artificers have both the means and the need to develop methods to enhance the power of dragonshards. The resulting proliferation of Siberys shard items range from devices focused on enhancing the power of a specific mark to generalized tools that work for anyone who bears a dragonmark. Kalashtar psions and the Inspired lords of Riedra have found a way to harness the power of Siberys shards by undergoing a painful process that embeds a shard in their body, providing enhanced mental or physical abilities.
Khyber shards are found beneath the earth near layers of magma or sulfur vents, typically growing on volcanic cavern walls. They are found throughout Eberron but are particularly common in areas known for fiendish activity, such as the Demon Wastes. Khyber shards have a smoky appearance, with writhing midnight blue to oily black veins running through them. They are sometimes known as nightshards or demonstones. Khyber shard items have an affinity for binding magic. They are common components of binding diagrams, soul trapping spells and similar magic associated with binding creatures.
Eberron shards are found buried in shallow soil in clusters encased in geodes. They are found only in Khorvaire and Aerenal. Eberron shards have a pinkish appearance and churn with crimson blood-red swirls. They are commonly known as bloodstones. Eberron shard items store magical energy or psionic power as spellbooks, spell-storing items or psionic power stones. Intelligent magical items often incorporate Eberron shards. Their magical affinity is very broad compared to the specific powers of Siberys and Khyber shards. Spellcasters can attune Eberron shards to a specific spell, enhancing the power of that spell when it's cast on the shard, and they can encode their spells in shards instead of scribing them.
Dragonshards can be crafted to power magic items, artifacts and constructs, or to augment dragonmark abilities. Dragonshard items vary in power depending on the purity of the dragonshard used. They are rarely large enough to craft into items of significant size; most often, small dragonshards are formed into jewelry. Larger dragonshards, up to the size of a fist, can be crafted into larger focus items.
Warforged are sentient "living constructs" similar to golems but capable of independent thought. Warforged were first invented thirty years ago during the Last War by House Cannith. They are constructed primarily of Livewood, timber from Aerenal that remains alive after being felled. Warforged were produced in Creation Forges in House Cannith strongholds. Under the treaty of Thronehold, the truce ending the Last War, the construction of new Warforged was banned and the existing members of the race were given their freedom. However, in the lands of Thrane and Karnath, Warforged are forced into "indentured servitude." They are the newest intelligent race of Eberron and don't yet have a well-defined place in the various civilizations of the world. With the loss of their regimented and well-regulated military lifestyle individual Warforged have had to develop their own goals in life.
Psiforged are a new breed of Warforged that can focus and channel psionic energy. Psionic crystals are imbedded within their bodies and can be seen beneath their exoskeletons. These crystals help focus the psionic energy that can be found in all living things. Although they are the same race as the Warforged, they have come to be set apart by being referred to as the "Psiforged."
Shifters, or "weretouched", are a true race that developed through the breeding of humans and lycanthropes resulting in a superficially human form with somewhat "animalistic" features. They have the ability to temporarily gain an increase in speed, a natural weapon (bite or claw), greater climbing ability, or other abilities as appropriate to their individual heritage. Shifters can only do this for short periods a limited number of times per day, however. Shifters suffered persecution from the church of the Silver Flame during their crusade against lycanthropes 160 years ago. The church of the Silver Flame initially considered shifters as dangerous and unnatural as lycanthropes, but later recognized this error and reclassified them as a distinct and natural race.
Changelings developed through the breeding of humans and doppelgangers. While they do not have the full shapechanging and telepathic abilities of doppelgangers, they still have a minor change shape ability that allows them to take on other appearances at will. Changelings lack a distinct culture and history of their own, instead using their abilities to blend in to the societies they live in, in many cases keeping their true race a secret to all.
Daelkyr Half-Bloods, introduced in the supplement Magic of Eberron, are formed when the venomous spirit of a Daelkyr, sealed beneath the earth, leaks into the surrounding environment. Unborn children within this sphere of influence are born Daelkyr Half-Bloods.
Eneko, introduced in the supplement Secrets of Sarlona, are the descendants of half-giants and ogres, and are most common in the Sarlonan nation of Syrkarn. Half-giants themselves can be played as characters from Xen'drik or Sarlona
Finally, Eberron introduced the kalashtar — humans bound with a spiritual psychic connection to a quori, a creature originally from Dal Quor, the Region of Dreams. This bonding first happened thousands of years ago and resulted in a new and distinct race with minor physical differences from humans and significant mental ones; Kalashtar have psionic abilities and some degree of shared memory due to the common spirit they share with their ancestors.
As for traditional races, elves are relative newcomers to the continent of Khorvaire. Originally the elves were slaves to a race of giants on the continent of Xen'drik. They escaped to and founded a nation on the smaller continent of Aerenal. Aerenal elves in Eberron practice a form of ancestor worship. On Aerenal, those elves deemed to be particularly beneficial to the race are magically revived as Undying. The lich-like beings are enchanted with positive energy instead of the negative energy that animates undead. The Undying act as counselors to the Aerenal elves. Elves have occupied parts of Khorvaire sporadically, only recently forming their own nation there known as Valenar. Valenar elves hold different traditions from Aerenal elves, and stress bringing glory to their Xen'drik ancestors through combat.
Dwarves, by legend, originated from the Arctic subcontinent of Frostfell and now live in a region called the Mror Holds. In addition to their traditional role as elite warriors, they also put much importance on wealth, and their dragonmarked house -- House Kundarak -- is used throughout Khorvaire for banking.
In the Eberron campaign setting, unlike other campaign settings, orcs are given to spirituality and nature-worship. They established successful societies, learning druidic secrets from the black dragon Vvaraak while the goblinoid races built a mighty empire, some 16,000 years ago. The orc societies took a massive blow during the daelkyr invasion 9,000 years ago, though it was the orcs now known as the Gatekeepers who were able to stop the invasion by sealing the daelkyr beneath Eberron and severing the link between Eberron and the daelkyr home plane of Xoriat. The Gatekeeper druidic sect remains a presence in Eberron, albeit one largely concerned with defending the world from outsiders, aberrations and other unnatural foes rather than politics.
Gnomes commonly live in their own country of Zilargo and are considered excellent shipwrights, the masters of elemental binding, information seekers, and social manipulators. Because of widespread immigration though, any race can be found anywhere on Khorvaire.
Other significant races and monsters to Eberron include goblinoids (goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears) who had an empire which once dominated Khorvaire, but powerful magics unleashed during the daelkyr invasion led to a period of decline. The remnants of their empire were largely wiped by the humans when they immigrated from Sarlona; however the Last War weakened the Five Nations to a degree that the goblinoids were able to form a new nation in part of what was once Cyre. Drow, unlike the elves, remained in Xen'drik. They use scorpion imagery but they do not venerate scorpions as drow in Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms do for spiders. Rather than being a subrace of elves, Keith Baker considers drow their own distinctive race. A special warped race of drow called the Umbragen or the shadow elves also exists, with information on them revealed in Dragon magazine and the computer game Dragonshard.
Couatl — good creatures of positive energy — are responsible (with the aid of the dragons) for bringing an end to the Age of Demons 100,000 years before the campaign begins. Some believe that most couatl have bound themselves to the force known as the Silver Flame, which now has a church devoted to it.
Rakshasas are part of an evil organization called the Lords of Dust who scheme in Khorvaire to release their godlike masters from Khyber. These evil spirits are the undisputed masters of illusion, treachery, and subversion, and they have a hand in the politics of practically every nation of Khorvaire.
Daelkyr are extremely powerful, evil creatures from the plane of Xoriat, the Realm of Madness. Only a handful in number, several Daelkyr were trapped in Khyber by potent seals of magic that were established by the Gatekeepers thousands of years ago. Though each likely seeks to free itself from Khyber, return to Xoriat, or destroy Eberron, as a whole they seem content to remain in their subterranean prisons for now; their motives and intents inscrutable to even their most trusted lieutenants.
The inspiration for Eberron came when Keith Baker was working on VR-1's cancelled pulp MMORPG Lost Continents. Baker aimed to fuse the energy of pulp adventure and film noir settings to traditional fantasy settings. The Eberron Campaign Setting sourcebook lists the following movies as inspirations for Eberron's tone and attitude: