Keith Baker Answers 13 Questions

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on September 2, 2009

keith-bakerKeith Baker, creator of Eberron, took time out of his busy schedule to answer 13 questions for us.

When we ran our early Eberron Campaign Guide review in July, it generated a lot of buzz and a lot of comments. I was thrilled to see that the book’s author, Mr. Baker himself, not only took the time to read our review but offered his 2 cents by leaving some comments of his own.

I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Baker in person a few times during this summer’s GenCon. He’s a very friendly and down-to-earth guy. I sat in on his free-for-all discussion about Eberron and it was well worth it. As you’d probably expect, he speaks of Eberron with remarkable enthusiasm. His insights into the draconic prophecy, resurrection in Eberron and undersea adventuring was awesome.

When Mr. Baker agreed to answer a few questions for us, the team at Dungeon’s Master tried to come up with something unique. We wanted to pose questions that Mr. Baker may not have been asked before or probably isn’t asked that often. We finally decided to just ask the questions that we, as gamers who play in Eberron every week, would find interesting. We hope that you find this Q&A as enlightening and enjoyable as we do.

  1. Is there a single element of Eberron that you are most proud of?

  2. Making people afraid of gnomes.

  3. Are there any aspects or details about Eberron that you feel get overlooked or missed by players and DMs?

  4. I think many people – including some Eberron writers – have failed to consider the impact of the Last War. In some early works, it feels like everything is peaceful and happy. And it’s not. The war only ended because people were terrified of the Mourning, and that’s what holds it at bay. There are those who want peace, but tensions and grudges remain. The damage is far from completely repaired, and you have villages isolated by the loss of a lightning rail or burnt out ruins along the former front lines. You have riots in Thaliost and Stormreach. You have political tensions in Breland, warlords challenging Kaius in Karrnath, and the growing aspirations of the Dragonmarked Houses. It’s a tense and unstable time. It’s there in the underlying assumptions of the original book, but not always clearly called out; it’s something I think comes across more clearly in chapter one of the 4E Eberron Campaign Guide (ECG).

  5. Were there any changes you wanted to introduce to Eberron in 4e that were left out?

  6. Not really. I’d still like to explore the undersea world of Eberron in more detail, but that’s not a change to the world, simply a space that we’ve never explored. I didn’t particularly want to change anything in Eberron; my goal was simply to let people see things in more detail. In 4E we get more detail on the tension in the world, more space for groups like the Lords of Dust, Zilargo, Droaam – I’d always like to write more, but it’s a good start.

  7. In your opinion, which monarch has the strongest claim to the throne of Galifar?

  8. Originally, definitely Mishann of Cyre. However, that doesn’t mean that Oargev has the strongest claim today. Personally, I think Galifar is a lost cause; the nations have drifted too far apart.

  9. If hostilities were to break out again, which nation do you think would be the aggressor?

  10. I think hostilities will break out again; it’s only a matter of time. If I had to pick, I’d say Aundair… though if Kaius was overthrown and Karrnath taken over by more aggressive warlords or the Swords of Karrn, that would be another story.

  11. What is your favourite locale in Khorvaire? Be it a country, city, building or natural phenomena.

  12. It’s hard. There’s so many places I love in Eberron, whether from a gaming perspective or purely conceptually. If I had to choose, it would probably be Droaam. I love exploring the concept of how creatures traditionally considered to be monsters could use their natural abilities for the benefit of society if they were brought together by a clever leader.

  13. Is there a plan to advance the timeline of the Eberron campaign setting?

  14. No. The timeline of the setting is advanced in certain novels, such as Don Bassingthwaite’s Legacy of Dhakaan series and my own Thorn of Breland books, but Eberron novels aren’t canon and don’t change the default of the setting; it’s up to you to decide if those events occur in your version of the world. We want them to be inspiration you can use for your own adventures, but you don’t have to.

  15. How do you think allowing any race to manifest a Dragonmark changes the Eberron campaign setting?

  16. It’s something that is misunderstood. In 4E Eberron, a PC of any race has the potential to manifest a dragonmark. But this doesn’t change the default rules of the world. Page 21 of the EPG and page 18 of the ECG include the same race-mark table from the original ECS, and the campaign guide says “Dragonmarks that appear outside these bloodlines are called aberrant marks, whether they’re recognized marks appearing on people not connected to the mark’s normal bloodline, or unusual marks beyond the recognized twelve”… adding “The character might be a member of a race unconnected to the dragonmarked houses, even a race that doesn’t normally manifest dragonmarks. Such a mark has nothing to do with bloodline and everything to do with the touch of the Prophecy. These characters are extremely rare—it’s not recommended that you create NPCs who fall into this category unless the story of your campaign demands it.”

    It’s something you CAN do. It’s not something that it’s recommended that you do casually, and it’s not the default for the setting; it’s an option you possess that lets you tell a story you couldn’t otherwise tell.

    Beyond this, bear in mind that the Eberron books are designed so that you could take the mechanical elements and use them in another setting or homebrew campaign. The idea that the Mark of Scribing is tied to gnomes is a specific flavor aspect of the Eberron campaign setting. But if you want to use dragonmarks in Forgotten Realms, that setting isn’t designed with scribing gnomes in mind, and you may decide that you want to attach it to another race, or no race at all. The racial restrictions are part of the flavor of the setting, and don’t need to be tied to the raw mechanic – and they still are part of the flavor of the setting, as addressed by the tables and sidebars in the ECG and EPG.

  17. How do you see House Tarkanan affecting the other Dragonmarked houses and the Draconic Prophecy?

  18. The quick answer to that is easy – read The Son of Khyber in November and see for yourself!

  19. Are there any plans to bring the Mark of Death back to Eberron?

  20. No. It’s supposed to be something you can explore, or not. Personally, I like it as it is, as a mystery on Erandis Vol’s dead skin. But I’m fine with people doing their own thing with it.

  21. What new Eberron supplements can we expect over the next year?

  22. None. Under the current plan, WotC will not be producing any print Eberron supplements. However, you will see additional Eberron novels, and continued support for Eberron in D&D Insider; I’m currently talking to Wizards about a variety of articles for Dungeon and Dragon.

  23. What can you tell us about your upcoming second novel in the Thorn of Breland series, The Son of Khyber?

  24. Thorn has to infiltrate House Tarkanan in Sharn, on request of House Cannith. It explores the balance of power between the nations and the houses, and what it means to have an aberrant dragonmark. And it may address some unresolved issues from The Dreaming Dark series…

  25. What advice would you give to DMs discovering Eberron for the first time with the release of the 4e Eberron Player’s Guide and Eberron Campaign Guide? Would you have different advice for DMs who discovered Eberron when it was still 3e D&D?

  26. Honestly, nothing comes to mind. I’m very pleased with the Eberron Campaign Guide. Chapter one is an excellent summary of the dominant themes of the setting. With that said, I would advise a new DM to check out the Dragonshard articles archived on the Wizards of the Coast website. They’re free, and they provide a great deal of detailed information on subjects only covered briefly in print.

I wanted to again thank Mr. Baker for answering these questions for us. Dungeon’s Master started as a few guys looking for a way to share their thoughts and ideas on D&D with other gamers. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to meet the creators of the game I enjoy so much. The growth and increased popularity of our site tells me that we’re doing something right. In my last email exchange Keith Baker told me to “keep up the good work with your site.” High praise indeed. Thanks, Mr. Baker and thanks to all of our readers.

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1 Reverend Lazaro September 2, 2009 at 10:32 am

That is one thing I love and respect about Eberron, and Keith Baker himself, is that this is a campaign marketed entirely in “Here’s the setting as it currently stands. Have fun.” We’re not having to check back every couple releases to make sure our world hasn’t changed, or to keep up with Metaplot or developments. You get the history, you get the starting point, and then….you get the keys.

This is why I picked up the setting books, even if I never run it again in 4E, over Forgotten Realms.
.-= Reverend Lazaro´s last blog ..Inn-Fighting: Review =-.

2 Questing GM September 2, 2009 at 11:01 am

Wow! Nice interview with some really juicy fluff and ‘behind-the-scenes’ info. I’m still wondering if I should get him to come over to Borneo as part of his world tour.
.-= Questing GM´s last blog ..Questing’s Readings – 30/8/09 =-.

3 Mike Shea September 2, 2009 at 11:59 am

There’s lots of stuff I love about Eberron. The Cold War setting, the Indiana Jones flavor, the Maltese Falcon macguffins (I love that the whole Day of Mourning is itself a giant undefined macguffin, maybe the biggest ever developed). I just love this stuff.
.-= Mike Shea´s last blog ..How to Get Back Your Player’s Attention =-.

4 focusgents September 2, 2009 at 12:07 pm

“Making people afraid of gnomes.”

This is why Keith Baker is one of my favorite game designers/writers. He takes us to new places, something that every D&D game needs.

5 Thasmodious September 2, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Nice interview. Droaam is my favorite area of Khorvaire as well, just oozing with flavor and potential. I am really loving the 4e setting strategy – no default setting in the core books, so no binding default assumptions. Setting books restricted to two books and an adventure, with a new setting every year. Just great, in my opinion.

6 Craig Willcutt September 2, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Excellent interview.

I had the pleasure to play in Keith’s Gameday adventure last year…it took place in Droaam. He does really seem to like that area and ran it with vigor.

Based off reading this interview it would seem that Keith likes where Eberron is heading now. I spoke briefly with him about Eberron (@ GenCon SoCal during the 3.5 days) and he seemed like he didn’t like the direction that the setting was heading. I may have been reading too much into it but I got the feeling that he felt that there were too many hands in the cookie jar.

I remember distinctly hating Eberron when it first hit the shelves. Now I like it more than Forgotten Realms. It is my hope that WoTC decides to support Eberron in its “Living…” adventures.

7 Sterling September 2, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Nice interview.

13 Questions, 13 Marks, 13 Moons, very Eberron.

I’m kind of disappointed the WotC won’t be putting out any supplements, but I am excited about Keiths suggestion that we might see articles in the future. I think Reverend Lazzaro hit the nail on the head when he said “… you get the keys.” with Eberron. You don’t have to accept someone elses version of events and the world is an open sandbox in which you get to muck around.

8 Ameron September 2, 2009 at 9:57 pm

@Reverend Lazaro
“And then… you get the keys.” what an excellent way to describe Eberron. And I too am a true convert from FR to Eberron.

@Questing GM
If you can get him to come to Borneo I’d recommend you do it.

@Mike Shea
One of my guys describes Eberron as “D&D all grown up.” The noir and the mystery is a big part of that rationale.

I couldn’t have said it better.

I always liked Droaam, and after reading The Queen of Stone I started to appreciate it in a whole new way. The idea of monsters acting civilized and vieing for political power is ingenious.

@Craig Willcutt
I certainly hope WotC starts doing “Living Eberron” games, but I don’t see it happening any time soon (unfortunately).

I assume most of the hard-core Eberron fans picked up on the “Baker’s dozen.” Knowing new articles about Eberron are coming to Dragon and Dungeon online gives me one more reason to renew my DDI subscription.

9 skallawag September 8, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Very cool interview.
We need to convince Keith to get his books on audio book so that we can listen during our daily commutes to work.

10 Ameron September 9, 2009 at 9:20 am

I’m glad you like it. I think any of the Eberron novels on audio would be a good investment. As someone who’s bought and read the paperbacks I’d shell out a few more bucks to get them for my iPod.

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