Mitch Gross: Writing Samples

Turbine Nation: Keith Baker Speaks!

Posted in Samples by Mitch on January 2, 2009

The creator of the Eberron campaign setting joined the crowd at Turbine Nation 2004 to share his thoughts and answer questions about Wizards of the Coast’s newest addition to the Dungeons & Dragons game which will also be the setting for Dungeons & Dragon’s Online.

Keith Baker prefaced his talk with a few statements and questions:

“Dungeons & Dragons has been around for thirty years and is finally coming online.”

“Why Eberron and what does it have to offer Dungeons & Dragons Online?”

And the big question…

“What is Eberron?”

Baker spoke about how D&D has been through three (and a half) versions of the rules and every time a new version comes out, a new world has been created to take best advantage of the changes. In this case, Wizards of the Coast had an open call for campaign setting ideas, in this case in the format of a one-page summary. They were expecting a few hundred, but over 12,000 showed up!

One of those submissions was made by Baker and the world of Eberron made it through all the elimination rounds to be chosen as the new world that would showcase the 3.0/3.5 versions of the D&D rules.

One of the requirements of the open call was a one-page description of the world. Baker revealed to us that his read, “Lord of the Rings meets Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Maltese Falcon.”

He went on to elaborate that he did not mean that the world should be a pulp fiction/film noir one but that it should meld fantasy with some of the core concepts of those genres to give the campaign setting a flavor not found in the previous worlds developed for D&D.

Baker felt D&D would benefit from the energy of pulp cinema and fiction – over the top cinematic action which makes the player a remarkable hero. From film noir he brought in a sense of intrigue, uncertainty and mystery to the setting in an effort to combine the black and white sense of a world based on alignments. “The lines are a lot greyer,” Baker said and warned players to expect conspiracies and schemes in Eberron.

Magic is another aspect of the setting that Baker discussed, explaining that magic in Eberron has followed a logical advancement in civilization in various aspects of life including transportation, communication, warfare and more. Despite this, magic still imparts a sense of wonder and high-level magic is still rare.

Because magic is more commonplace, things happen fast in the game. Players don’t spend their time “jogging” from place to place. Magical transportation lets them travel quickly and even at low-levels, adventures can be globe-spanning. Though his main focus is the face-to-face (F2F) game, Baker did mention that because of this “Dungeons & Dragons Online is going to be a game about adventure.”

The actual lands of Eberron support the pulp/noir concept of the game. D&D Online will be set in Xendrik, a seperate area from Khorvaire where the F2F game is set. Xendrik, according to Baker, is similar in many ways to Atlantis or Tarzan’s Africa. The lands are greatly unexplored and adventurers are just discovering evidence of ancient civilizations and lost temples. No one country rules Xendrik, its a no man’s land or a “Casablanca” for the fantasy gamer.

Another important thing to understand about Eberron is that it is recovering from a century-old war which only ended two years ago. One of the things players will explore is how a magical war has affected the world around them. One effect of this has been the development of “Dragonmarks” – marks of magical powers that are carried by bloodlines and the families that control them are one of the great powers of Eberron.

Online, players will not initially be in a faction though many exist in Eberron, says Baker, and this will drive the story to a great degree. In the F2F game, players can actually choose to join a faction from the start, even a Dragonmark House. Other groups and factions exist including religious ones like the Church of the Silver Flame – the dominant force for good in the world, though there are rumors of corruption in the church.

Death is a little more serious in Eberron than other D&D campaign settings Baker warned us. Clerics don’t sell their services and resurrections are not easy to come by. To bring a character back from the dead might involve a major quest or even a trip to the Underworld to try and bring them back. To make the point, Baker said, “If you’re first level and you’re dead, you’re dead!”

Another aftereffect of the war is the creation of the Warforged – a race of constructed soldiers (“golems”) that were built for war, but now the war is over. Warforged are a playable race both in the F2F game as well as in D&D Online according to Baker. Warforged cannot be healed normally – wizards will actually have to take on the role of healer if a Warforged is in the party.

Eberron, compared to previous D&D worlds has very powerful forces for good. There is no “super-wizard” according to Baker, so the world needs the player. It is possible to play an evil character but there are many other evil people and groups and good and evil is not always clearly defined in the game.

Baker and the D&D developers did consider having players starting at a higher level on creation to jump them into the action but decided to leave that up to the players. One suggestion he made was that as the war ended two years ago, players might start out as veterans who fought together in the war and could actually play a scene from the war in a flashback that might bring them up to second level at the end of the adventure and give them a good reason for why they are an adventuring party and how they got some of the skills they have.

Dungeons grow out of the concept that Xendrik is a “world to be explored” as Baker put it. There are all kinds of things out there and don’t be surprised if your explorations take you to such places as the “City of the Spider People” or other pulp-style locations.

Another way Eberron focuses the game on the players is by Action Points – “bursts of luck” that players get in addition to skills and classes NPCs don’t have, though Baker warns don’t be surprised if a Master Villain has access to the same special abilities as the players…

The reason for keeping Xendrik seperate from the main continent of Khorvaire is to seperate what is happening in D&D Online from changes that will take place in the F2F game. Some of these changes may filter down to Xendrik but the developers at Turbine will be able to better control expectations. The war never actually touched Xendrik so don’t expect what you find in the F2F game is completely the same in D&D Online.

As he wrapped up his talk, Baker focused on why Eberron is a good setting for D&D Online and for Turbine to develop. He has been watching the development of the online game and has found that the developers know D&D and are doing a good job of capturing the essence of it. They “hit the button” he said in capturing the energy of combat in Eberron which is supposed to be “active and energetic, colorful and exciting, which is what Eberron is all about.”

Originally published on – archive link below:


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