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13 June 2008 @ 12:12 am
OK: Races, already.  
Let me start off with the standard disclaimers. I'm not going to go into detail here. I'd like to; we've got lots of cool ideas in the works, and I'll admit that I never liked the eladrin until we hit on our current story for them. But this isn't the place for those details, all the more so because until the 4E Eberron books go to print, anything could change. Even with the limited level of detail I am going to provide, this is not canon. And even if it was, don't let that stop you from doing your own thing. If you think it's cool to turn the Aereni into eladrin, do it. If you want to give the eladrin a floating cloud continent, do it. WE aren't going to do either of those things, but hey, knock yourself out. But if you are interested in canon, I'd keep an eye on DDI. We've already seen the warforged; if the full Eberron eladrin story is going to come out early. I'd expect it to be there.

Anyhow, let's talk races.

Warforged. The warforged have just gotten a full player-race treatment in Dragon, complete with flavor, racial feats, paragon paths, and equipment. So warforged are good to go.

Shifters. The Monster Manual provides basic info on the Longtooth and Razorclaw shifters. It's enough to make shifter PCs, and I've got one in one of my games right now. It works fine. Hopefully the shfiters will get a similar DDI treatment to that of the warforged, and you'll see feats that capture a broader range of their old abilities. But even without all the bells and whistles (and who among us will bell the shifter?), they are a playable race as stands.

Changelings. Likewise, the MM gives basic changeling (well, doppelganger) data. The default is +2 Int/+2 Cha - IE, great fey warlock - but as a house rule, I've allowed changelings to go +2 Dex/+2 Cha as their ability modifiers. I've always seen them as more rogue than wizard. They're fairly straightforward as written, but I'd hope to see a DDI article to give them more depth (or write one - I did write The Complete Guide to Doppelgangers, after all!).

Now, a question that's come up with the relationship between changelings and doppelgangers. As stands, they are two words for the same thing. It's basically a level of trust and hostility. I'm worried that a doppelganger has replaced the mmayor; while Dek the changeling is a decent fellow, even if that gray skin is creepy. Use the word you want to use. As a random factoid, the original Eberron proposal didn't actually have changelings; it just had doppelgangers as a base race, using a Savage Species-style level progression to gain access to their full abilities. Changelings came out of the desire to just have a simple, LA +0 race. So the current model is actually closer to the original. I'd like to see some racial feats and paragon paths that draw out some of the old doppelganger ideas we all remember, but there will be time for that.

Kalashtar. Not happening any time soon. If you want kalashtar NPCs, I'd look at the psionic abilities of the mind flayers and gith for ideas. But at the moment, they aren't around for PCs.

Gnomes. They're still in Zilargo, and their knack for stealth is a boon for agents of the Trust. The MM entry is works just fine. I let 'em spend feats to be able to use prestidigitation or ghost sound, because to me those are a big part of Zilargo (and it lets a Trust agent whisper a warning into the ear of a would-be criminal... steering them from an unwise course so you never have to get into conflict). But that's a me thing - I'm not saying it's balanced, and I'm certainly not saying it's going to be in the 4E Eberron books. In any case, I've got a gnome wizard in one of my games, and he's been having a fine time.

Half-orcs. Right now, there's no rules for half-orcs. You can take the kalashtar route and hang back from making half orc PCs. You could make your own half-orcs. Or you could make a "half-orc" by using a human or an orc, and simply describe the character as showing clear signs of his heritage - if human he may have grayish skin, prominent teeth, etc. Looking specifically to a human, use his ability bonus on either Strength or Constitution; use his racial feat on something like Toughness or Power Attack; and use his racial skill training on something like Intimidate, Athletics, or Nature. Bingo - half-orc.

I believe that covers the OLD races. Looking to the new races...

Tieflings. I can't talk about the full history of the tiefling in Eberron - it's just not the right time. I know that's frustrating for those of you planning to make tiefling characters, but you'll have to come up with your own story (there's certainly a lot of good ideas out there) or be a tiefling of mystery. However, what I can do is point back to what's already been said in 3.5 sources. Tieflings do exist in Eberron. They're rare in the civilized world, but not unknown. And they are most common in the west - notably Droaam and the Demon Wastes.

Dragonborn. Novels and such have already pointed to the presence of dragonborn in Argonnessen. However, Argonnessen is going to remain as mysterious and offlimits in 4E as in 3E, which means you aren't going to have a steady stream of PCs from Argonnessen. "Oh, yeah, I was hangin' with the Conclave the other day, and one of the Eyes of Chronepsis, she says 'Wasssup!', and I say..." No no no. But where dragons have ventured beyond Argonnessen, you might find dragonborn. That's all I'll say for now - but the point is that you do have dragonborn in Khorvaire, albeit in small numbers. One of the PCs in my playtest game (and bear in mind, this is before I even started talking with WotC about Eberron 4E, so don't take this as official) is a dragonborn paladin of the Blood of Vol, whose ancestors fought alongside the original Emerald Claw in the war in which the line of Vol was erradicated; his ancestors immigrated to Lhazaar and later to Karrnath along with the elven exiles. Again, don't expect us to suddenly say "Karrnath is crawling with Vol-loving dragonborn" - but it's an example of how you could find a few around.

Eladrin. We're standing by what we said in 3.5: Eladrin are denizens of Thelanis. Again, there's a big story here we'll reveal in time, but for the moment, just bear in mind that Thelanis is one of the easiest planes to move to and from. Obviously you've got the Twilight Demesne in the Eldeen Reaches, but any manifest zone will do when the time is right. Perhaps you came during the Last War and lost your heart to a human, or simply to their cause. Perhaps you are an exile, doomed to wander the mortal realms until you can solve an unsolvable riddle or find the livewood staff holding the soul of your betrothed. Perhaps you are a trickster wishing to test your wiles on tyhe dull-witted people of Khorvaire. There's lots of options to choose from... and while we have other things in the shadows, none of these would contradict the larger scheme. As with the Dragonborn and Tieflings, eladrin aren't common in Khorvaire, but neither are they unknown - though you'd probably end up being mistaken for an elf most of the time.

Now, I know lots of people expected us to make the Aereni into the eladrin. Why didn't we? Well, if it was our intention, we could have made the Aereni and Tairnadal separate races in the first place; goodness knows 3.5 had enough elven subraces, and we kept them one race under that. The difference between the Aereni and the Tairnadal is supposed to be purely cultural. They share common ancestors, and have taken different paths to compensate for the tragic loss of those ancestors. The Aereni now seek to preserve their heroes through necromancy; the Tairnadal, through martial and religious devotion. But both stretch back to the same roots... and as has been noted in a few places, it's possible for a youth from the south to head north to join the Tairnadal, or for a Tairnadal to turn his back on his people and join the Aereni. The eladrin are similar to elves, and their may be good reason for that - but they are a different race, while the Aereni and Tairnadal are simply different cultures.

Now you may be saying "But the elf makes a great ranger, while the eladrin is clearly an awesome wizard - aren't the Aereni all about magic?" The Aereni ARE accomplished at the arcane arts, sure. But you don't HAVE to have a +2 racial Int modifier for that to be the case. When it comes to min-maxing, it's not the best choice. But hey, while you might not be able to match that tiefling wizard in terms of pure Int, with your Wisdom and Dexterity modifiers, you can excel at your wand or orb mastery.

Beyond that, however, in my opinion the Aereni aren't the best wizards in the world. They're good at the arcane arts. They've developed impressive stuff. But in my opinion, they're stuck in a rut; they haven't really accomplished much NEW magically over the last few thousand years, especially when you set them next to the achievements of the Twelve. Airships! Warforged! Eternal Wands! And that's just in the last century. Elven magic is ancient and impressive - but innovation is not their strong suit. On the other hand, the Aereni have one innovation no one else has matched: the creation of a true divine force, in the Undying Court. It is this power that has allowed them to hold off the might of Argonnessen; and so it is the field of the divine where their true power lies. That means it's their clerics you should really watch out for... which means Wisdom, and that elves have.

Which is a long way of saying the Tairnadal have great rangers, the Aereni have mighty clerics, and the elf race works for both - and that's how we're leaving it!

And at this point, I'm going to sign off for at least a few days. I know that you'd all like more information on this and other topics, but frankly, I have paying work I need to get to! Obviously there's lots of questions remaining, such as how to handle dragonmarks. That one isn't a question I can answer for you right now, but I've seen lots of people developing homebrew ideas on the WotC boards and elsewhere, so if you need dragonmarks now see what people have come up with. The word is that the artificer will be in DDI next month, and hey, my article on Mordain's domain should be coming up on Dragon any day now - so enjoy those, and good luck overcoming the obstacles that remain in your way!
Current Location: Still Boulder
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mouseferatu on June 13th, 2008 07:58 am (UTC)
I was a little disappointed to note that the MM doesn't specifically mention that some doppelgangers are called "changelings." But I figure we'll see that called out in an Eberron-specific book.

In any event, the next time I run an Eberron game, I think I'm going to decide that

A) "Doppelganger" is the race's name in its own language.

B) "Changeling" is the name given them by humans, in the Common tongue.

C) Doppelgangers have a culture of racial supremacy, and consider those of their numbers who accept the term "changeling" and live openly among others to be "race traitors."

Dunno why, just strikes me as a cool cultural distinction.
Keith Bakergloomforge on June 13th, 2008 08:20 am (UTC)
Personally, I've always loved the potential in doppelganger societies (with The Complete Guide to Doppelgangers exploring one way you could go). I like the idea that changelings often appear in human communities as the result of a disguised doppelganger mating with a human - hence the surprised parent THINKS the baby has been swapped, whereas really the father was swapped at the time of conception. In this case, the powers of the two aren't different - but I still see doppelgangers as being frightening figures. The changeling isn't as scary because you're familiar with it. But the doppelganger is unknown. How many are out there? Where are they? What do they want? They may be the same race biologically, but the cultural difference combined with the ability to assume any form will make them FEEL very different.