Epic Interview With Eberron's KEITH BAKER!

This epic interview with Eberron creator Keith Baker covers both Eberron and Keith's upcoming card-based RPG, Phoenix: Dawn Command. It is composed of questions and answers from multiple people in Keith's EN World Ask Me Anything (AMA) in April. To make it a little easier, I have re-organised the questions into two sections, one on PDC and one on Eberron. Get yourself a coffee first; like most AMAs, it's pretty long, but well worth the read!

The Dread began three years ago with the rise of the bone legions in the south. Since then it has spread across the known world, a waking nightmare that takes hundreds of horrible forms. Ghosts howl in the night. Skinchangers lurk in the wilds. Fallen soldiers rise to slaughter the living. Entire cities fall to a Chant that turns all who hear it into mindless killers. We don’t know why this is happening. We don’t know how to stop it. All that we know with certainty is that we are fighting a war and we are losing. Over a third of the Empire has been lost to the Dread, and each day brings new horrors. In this dark time we have one hope: Phoenixes are returning. Every citizen knows tales of the Phoenixes, champions who can face death and return stronger than before. In the centuries following our brutal civil war the Phoenixes have become legends… and now you are one of them.

So Phoenix: Dawn Command (PDC?) is a card-based RPG, which is definitely a departure from the traditional "book + dice + character sheet" model. What brought you to combine the "non-collectible card game" format with a roleplaying game?

Why did you decide to go with a card system for game resolution instead of using either regular numerical dice or customized dice?

Is this game like TSR's old SAGA system, where players draw and refresh hands from a communal deck (but still have a character sheet), or more like ccgs and deck-building games in that each character is represented by its own deck?

In Phoenix, each player has their own set of cards that represents a character. You have a small set of Lessons, which stay out in front of you and can be used at any time. These reflect the core, reliable abilities of your character - a Durant's ability to shrug off damage, a Devoted's power to take the wounds of others, and so on. Then you have a deck of action cards; at any given time you usually have a hand of five of these. Many Action cards are just a flat attribute and score - "Strength 4". However, the low-value cards are Traits, which have both a special ability and describe your character in some way... "Vengeful", "Hunter", "Seen This Before." When you're performing an action, if you can explain how the trait applies (where exactly DID you see this before? How is you experience as a hunter relevant here?) you can add it to a spread regardless of restrictions and may receive additional benefits. You can see all these elements in the Character Creation video that Rich Malena put together.

So: Your character is entirely reflected by a deck of cards. You have a character sheet, but it's more about defining your character's backstory and connection to the world and you don't actually need to have it out at the table.

The bigger question, then: Why do this? What does it add to an RPG?

For one thing, it provides players with a strong sense of narrative control. There is a random factor from round to round as you draw cards, but in any given moment you know exactly what your character is capable of. You don't make an epic speech, launch your biggest attack at the balrog, and then role a 1 and have nothing happen. Instead, you know if you're capable of making that attack this round, and if you can't, it's a question of what you can accomplish with the resources you have available.

With that said, Phoenixes have ways to push beyond their limits. Many abilities allow you to assist team-mates. However, the most important tools are your Sparks. This is a pool of mystical energy that you use to power your supernatural abilities... but you can also use it to add directly to attack or skill spreads. The catch? When you run out of Sparks, you die. So in Phoenix, success or failure is less about random chance and more about what you're willing to sacrifice to succeed. Which ties directly to the whole death-isn't-the-end aspect of the game. There are times when it is worth it to get hit by an attack you could have avoided in order to save your cards to do something vital on your next turn... and times when it's worth it to burn all your Sparks to do something amazing, even if it means you'll die.

Essentially, it's a different sort of story than a typical dungeon crawl. You have a shared mission and that mission is more important than any one of your lives. The cards are a way to put important decisions in your hands.

It's really another question, but to be clear: when you die, you don't come back right away and you don't come back at the place where you died. Think about Gandalf's sacrifice fighting the balrog in Moria. He DID return stronger than before, but not immediately. Most missions are very time-sensitive, and if you have a TPK you will fail... and then have to deal with the consequences of that failure.

One of the difficulties I found in playtesting (a different card-based game) was that I realized every player wanted to keep the deck of cards that made their character, permanently. Since there would only be one copy of the game I wasn't quite sure how to combat this, but was considering the possibility that there would have to be some kind of player pack. What are your thoughts on this issue?

Without knowing the demand, it's not possible for us to invest in player packs. I do think there are players who'd like to have their own decks, and I'd love to have some sort of print on demand option, but currently we haven't found a satisfactory solution; for example, DriveThruCards doesn't currently print tarot-sized cards. But it's certainly something we'll continue to explore.

Do you think you've managed to deal with the fact that a card game seems to make the players (in my playtesting experience) feel more at competition with the GM?

It's not something I've found to be a problem. The GM doesn't have a deck of cards like the players. There's nothing random about the GM's actions; I choose WHO a creature will attack and which attack it will use, but then it's in the hands of the player as to whether that attack will succeed or fail. Sure, a competitive GM could be vindictive in the choice of WHO to attack and what attack to use, but that's true in any RPG.

I think the big thing that makes this less of an issue is that in Phoenix, the odds are always stacked against the players. If I'm designing a dungeon in D&D, I'll generally try to make it fair. In Phoenix, I don't have to. I can put that balrog in the bottom that you can't defeat, and the question is if any of you can survive to escape with the info you've gained. Because Phoenix is essentially about being able to beat those odds through smarts & sacrifice... even if you may not all make it out. I don't NEED to get extra competitive; the PCs are going to have a challenging time as it is.

Do you feel you've managed to capture a feeling of making every character feel unique without overloading them with cards?

I do. Action decks are actually quite small and the Traits - which are selected by each player during character generation - provide a lot of flavor as well as providing unique abilities.

In the artwork for the sample Phoenixes, I noticed that they all have their faces in profile. Is that part of the artistic direction for all Phoenix characters in this set? Where did the inspiration for the artwork come from? It's pretty unique and cool.

In developing the action cards, we wanted to present images of Phoenixes as they would be depicted in the world itself, as opposed to a "snapshot" of a Phoenix. We were looking for a blend of Byzantine/Tarot flavor with WWI and WWII propaganda posters. This is a world at war, and these are stylized depictions of heroes and threats. As a side note, the artists are Rich Ellis and Grace Allison of Periscope Studios.

How many sessions do you estimate the built-in "adventure path" will take? 120 pages seems quite short for a rulebook, so I find it unsettling that it is supposed to contain a full story arc on top of the full rules!

The missions run between 3-6 hours, and the longer ones can be split into two sessions. The guide also includes advice for creating new challenges and adventures - so you're not limited to that arc.

As for the book, 120 pages is a minimum. It's possible it will end up being expanded, or supplemented by (free) PDF material.

Any plans about follow-up books, expansions, etc? Care to give us an idea of your plans for the future of PDC?

In the initial arc, the Dread is largely unknown. People don't know the full scope of it, why it is happening, or how the various manifestations relate to one another. Phoenixes have only just started to return. They are few in number, lack resources, and haven't established a relationship with the Empire; that's something the actions of the players can affect. So much of the drive of the arc is discovery. The initial set of missions deals with a particular aspect of the Dread, but certainly doesn't solve every mystery in the world. So there's lots of room for additional adventures and for digging deeper into the setting.

If there's sufficient interest, the next step - which would likely involve an entirely different generation of Phoenixes - would be to look at the world once the answers are known and there are more Phoenixes, when it's about fighting a war instead of finding answers. Beyond this, part of the history of the setting is the fact that the original Phoenixes established the Empire but ended up stepping down after the people rose up against them... will this new generation of Phoenixes seek to take power, or find a different path?

Essentially, the first act is more of a focused, mission-driven introduction to the setting; the second act would allow for a wider range of stories and directions for PCs.

And fiction is a possibility; there's a lot of interesting storytelling hooks in the setting.

But all that depends on if there's interest in the system and the world!

How many sessions do you feel the average campaign will be with this game to go from beginning heroes to the end and final death?

After death, the soonest a Phoenix can return is dawn on the following day, and you can only return in certain places. Most missions are on a tight timeline, so in many adventures it's not actually possible to die and be reborn in the course of a single session. As such, it will likely take at least seven missions to go through the entire cycle, and that's assuming you die in every session, which would be pretty aggressive play. There are missions in our initial path that last long enough for death and rebirth, and we also have lots of hooks in the path for GMs to drop in interludes or additional missions.

It also varies by School. Bitter Phoenixes are most powerful when close to death, so as a Bitter you want to live on the edge and could potentially die every mission. Meanwhile, Durant Phoenixes are all about being hard to kill; the Durant is the best choice for the person who wants to ease into the death and rebirth concept.

Are there any plans to support online play with this game, or is that too far in the future?

It's certainly a possibility, but for now we're really focusing on getting the core game out.

Why Tarot cards instead of normal sized cards? It would be easy to sleeve then.

We love the look and feel of the tarot-sized cards. You're using them all the time, and it's nice to have something that has some weight. Sleeves are harder to come by, but they are available.

How often a player who WANTS to succeed, can't? Be a fate of a bad hand draw, or a critical hit for the DM or a critical miss for the player in other RPGs.

It's really a very different sort of experience. Let's say that you're facing some sort of powerful spirit. You can look at your hand and its defense number and conclude that you don't have what it takes to inflict damage on it. In which case, you can consider what you CAN accomplish with the cards you have, which falls back to what kind of character on. If you're Devoted, can you use your knowledge of spirits to try to learn more about the creature? If you're Shrouded, can you spot something hidden or take advantage of something in the room? Can you try to free the captive that the spirit is holding prisoner?

With that said, there are OFTEN surprises. Part of the point of the setting is that we know almost nothing about the Dread. For example, it could be that if you just leap in an "kill" that spirit that it will leap into the body of that prisoner... and now it's even tougher and you've just killed an innocent. Which is why you might have wanted to make that Lore check!

So you never have a situation where you try to make an attack and unexpectedly roll a 1 - but you can certainly have situations where something unexpected happens. Likewise, there are often situations where you know if you have a good hand, but you don't know EXACTLY what your target number is. It's like saying "You know you have a 15 on your D20... is that enough to sneak past that guard?" You know it's good, but you don't know how sharp the guard is.

So there's lots of ways to get uncertainty. But you don't have the entirely unexpected "I'm really good at this thing, but I rolled a 1 and failed this trivial task."

How many dollars and hours went into producing your Kickstarter, and did those numbers meet your expectations?

The only real expense tied directly to the campaign itself was the video... and Rich Malena's videos on Character Creation and Skill Spreads are something he did on his own, not something we commissioned. So the Kickstarter? Not a lot. Phoenix itself? We've been working on it since late 2013, and ever since then I've been playtesting it at Portland and conventions. We've gone through multiple evolutions of the system. We've playtested and thrown out a number of adventures before finding the style and tone that works best for the game. We started developing the art in 2014 and went through a few different iterations. We've gone through different iterations of the geography, cultures and history of the world. We've also spent time working out fulfillment arrangements, talking to printers, and so on.

Short form: time has been a far more significant cost than money. Creating a roleplaying game and a new setting is dramatically more labor-intensive than creating a game like Gloom. But I knew that going in, so at the end of the day - yes, it met my expectations.

While I talked about this already, I wanted to revisit it. Again, the main cost in creating Phoenix has been time. It took around two months to create Gloom; I've spent about a year and a half on Phoenix. As I said in the previous post, I expected this. Creating a setting is a big task even if you aren't developing a new system on top of it. With that said, creating worlds is what I enjoy doing. The main reason I'm doing this is because I can't continue to expand Eberron until WotC decides to do something with it. Phoenix is a new world, and if it's successful it will be something I can continue to expand and explore.

It's still an open question as to whether Phoenix will be successful enough to justify that sort of continued support, or whether Twogether should focus on smaller projects in the future; we'll see how things go.

In Eberron: Phoenix, isn't a free overlord a good apocalyptic, time dependent setting?

It depends how it manifests; some Overlords can be very subtle. With that said, one aspect of Phoenix is that we don't entirely understand the threat. It's not simply a question of whether you can triumph in a battle; it's whether you can figure out why that battle is happening in the first place and how to stop it from happening again. Imagine that the Mourning starts slowly expanding. That monsters are pouring out from its borders. That new patches of Mourning spring up and swallow cities in other nations. The threat is clear. But when a swarm of monsters emerges from the edge and attacks a village, defeating the monsters is simply a temporary solution; to actually fight it, you need to understand it.

When will we have a Gloom: Phoenix?

It's not something I'd see as an actual product, but I could imagine doing a single family & some modifiers as a print & play thing for a stretch goal. Like Gloom, at the end of the day you want a Phoenix to die... but also like Gloom, you want it to be part of a strong story.

Are there races in Phoenix? I did not see the videos, but all the articles appears to talk only about cultures and mystical beings(Phoenix, Fallen ones, spirits). Is everyone human?

The people of the Empire are human; there's more of an emphasis on culture than species. The one rare exception are changelings - people thought to have blood ties to the Fallen Folk - but they're part of Skavi culture as opposed to identifying as a separate entity. With that said, Phoenixes themselves don't always appear to be human; how you're reborn as a Phoenix is all about how you view yourself, and that's something that can also evolve over time.

Is there any playtest/quick/early version for the backers, or we will just get to see the full book?

I'm honestly not sure yet. The thing about Phoenix is that you need the cards to play. It may be good to introduce the world and the system early... or it might simply be frustrating to have half a game.


Keith, what is your spark that set the fire that created Eberron? What about for Phoenix: Dawn Command? By spark I mean the first idea that you explored and blew out that kept growing.

Great question!

Eberron came from a few different places. First of all, I'd spent a year watching pulp movies and serials, and I've always loved film noir, and I wanted to blend that with fantasy. Second: In 3E D&D - what I was working with at the time - magic behaves in a scientific manner. It's reliable and repeatable. It can be taught. A wizard can invent a spell and then teach that to another wizard. So why doesn't it evolve with society? The question to me was "If we'd had arcane magic in the Renaissance instead of technology, what would the world look like today?" There's lots of other elements - the impact of war, the balance between political and corporate power, but the main SPARKS were pulp/noir and exploring the impact of magic on civilization.

Phoenix likewise comes from a few places. The first spark was the idea of a setting in which death was how the heroes become stronger. This then led to the question of a world where that concept made sense - both in terms of the mythology of the world, the impact Phoenixes would have on society, and a threat that would make that power feel necessary. The point of Phoenix is that your missions are more important than your survival, and the odds are harsh enough that you will have to make sacrifices to hope to succeed. Like Eberron, there's far more to the setting than just this initial spark... and it also explores the impact of magic on civilization, just in a very different way!

Another Eberron question. If you were to have written a third "Thorn of Breland" novel, what would it have dealt with?

First of all, I DID write a third Thorn of Breland novel: The series is The Queen of Stone, The Son of Khyber and The Fading Dream. However, I'd originally discussed a five-book arc with WotC, so I did have a longer story in mind. Without giving too much away about the previous books, the idea of the series is that it begins with the focus on Thorn and the cold war between the Five Nations... but as it goes on, she becomes aware of the cold war between the dragons of Argonnessen and the Lords of Dust, and her role in that. Again, not really a spoiler because it's only something that really becomes clear in the final book - but that's the direction it was going.

While you were in Boulder, Colorado, what were your favorite gaming stores, libraries, book stores or other sources of information and inspiration for gaming and writing?

One place that covers a number of these at once is Black & Read in Arvada, which is a great source for new games, books and music and an exceptional source for used versions of all of these things. When I left Colorado to travel the world in 2009, a lot of my old games ended up in there. Black & Read was always one of my favorite places to go when I wasn't looking for anything in particular - because you could always find something interesting and unexpected.

Others: Time Warp and Karliquin's Game Knight.

Was there anything in that part of Colorado that inspired some part of Eberron?

Interesting question, and I wish I had an awesome answer... but not really for Eberron. I love the Garden of the Gods, but it's not something that particularly made it to Eberron.

I just wanted to ask if there are any news or there has been (or will/may be) any progress regarding the possibility of having Eberron 5e products or material.

Still no news. I talked with WotC a few weeks ago when I was in Seattle for ECCC, and I we are still slowly moving towards something, but I can't predict how long it will be until something comes of it.

Some of Eberron's distinct traits are that the default timeline always hovers around a few years after the Day of Mourning, and that NPCs above 10th level are VERY few far and between. This reigns in metaplot advancement, and allows PCs to really shine as the prime movers and shakers in the world. No need to identify the settings to which these traits were probably reactions, but were they something you conceived while working your way through the contest, or were they instituted by WotC?

When Eberron was being converted to 4th Edition, there was a long discussion about whether to advance the timeline. 998 YK is a nexus of possibilities and a time when lots of interesting things are coming to a head, and ultimately the view (which I supported) was that we should stay with it. But that wasn't something baked into the setting from the start.

The relative dearth of high-level NPCs was absolutely part of the setting from the start. In part this was a reaction to other settings, as you suggest. Beyond that, it was always part of capturing the "pulp" flavor of the world - the idea that even at low levels the PCs are truly remarkable people who stand out. The setting bible emphasized that most NPCs should have NPC classes - so the bartender at the tavern should be a 2nd-level commoner or expert, not a high-level bard - and most of the high-level benevolent NPCs are handicapped in some way. Jaela is a powerful cleric, but loses that power when she leaves Flamekeep. Oalian is a mighty druid, but he's also a tree. They exist in the world as things PCs could seek out - but if the Tarrasque attacks Sharn, it's up to you to stop it.

Likewise, Eberron's approach to religion was an intentional reaction to other settings. First of all, I wanted the setting to have room for schisms and corruption within a church - both things that seem odd if you can literally dial a deity on the commune-phone and say "Who's right here?" I wanted faith to be something that mattered, so you could get the hardboiled ex-paladin having to find his path back to belief. And I didn't want gods to be essentially big monsters; we have the Overlords for that. I have a fairly extensive post about this topic here.

These things were all baked into the setting from the start, and WotC chose the setting; I don't recall any arguments about "We like the setting, but you need to have stats for the deities." Part of the point is that I like mythology with active gods. The Time of Troubles is a fun storyline. But if that's what you want, you can get it in FR; you don't need another setting that just tells the same story. Conversely, Eberron's approach to religion allows you to explore stories that simply wouldn't make sense in Faerun.

Back on the timeline: If I were to change the timeline in Eberron I wouldn't go forward - I'd go back and explore some of the interesting periods in the past. I've often thought about running campaigns set in the Age of Dhakaan and the Lycanthropic Purge, for example. And I have run a few campaigns set during the Last War.

According to one of my DM friends (who also loves both settings), Eberron and Planescape aren't compatible in terms of cosmology and tone. I think they can be, personally, but I wanted to ask your opinion on the matter.

For the record, Planescape is MY favorite fantasy setting that I didn't work on, and Planescape: Torment is still one of my favorite CRPGs. So I'm immediately sympathetic to the idea.

For me, the most important thing about using a setting is that it should inspire you to create stories, not prevent you from telling the stories you want. If something gets in the way of that, change it. So personally, I wouldn't just drop Eberron into the Great Wheel, but I have no objection to someone else doing that.

However, if I were to mash up Eberron and Planescapre, what I'd do is alter Sigil to fit into Eberron. I'd keep the same fundamental concept - a planar crossroads ruled by an enigmatic figure - and just adapt it to Eberron. Gods can be replaced by the most powerful planar entities in Eberron - things like the Devourer of Dreams, the mightiest generals of the endless conflict of Shavarath, archfey, the greatest of the Daelkyr, etc. We could argue whether the Lady of Pain. It is commonly thought that it's possible for mortals to ascend to become Sovereigns... perhaps the Lady of Pain was once one of the Sovereigns, but was driven out by a successor and returned to reality from whatever layer the Sovereigns exist on. Perhaps she is an aspect of Eberron herself, a piece torn off in her battle with Khyber. Now as noted before, a critical part of Eberron is that the PCs are uniquely qualified to be heroes. I could see doing something here with the Prophecy; the PCs aren't as powerful as archfey and angels, but there is something about them that has the potential to change the shape of reality.

So anyhow, I certainly think it could be done!

Also on the subject, I could totally see Phoenix: Dawn Command working in a Planescape like setting. Making a note of that...

This touches on my post about running Phoenix in Eberron. It is certainly possible. The trick to transferring Phoenix to a different setting is to make sure the story needs Phoenixes. In PDC, death isn't a source of tension until you're on your last lives; instead it's actually how you get stronger. Which means that the tension comes from the mission - the stakes that rest on your success or failure and the pressures you face. When we talk about the game, people often hear the concept that "death makes you stronger" and ask why Phoenixes don't simply kill themselves. The answer is that they can't afford to. The stakes are too high and the missions too important to simply throw your life away until there's no other alternative.

So you can certainly transfer Phoenix to Planescape or Eberron: the question is what is the story that creates a NEED for Phoenixes - the missions that can be so important that it's worth dying to succeed, and so important that you can't afford to die easily.

With that said, Phoenix: Dawn Command is a setting designed around Phoenixes. Just as Eberron was designed to take 3E D&D magic into account, in creating Phoenix we've been thinking about just what sort of impact the presence of Phoenixes would have on a world.

I'm thinking about converting the 4e module Madness at Gardmore Abbey to 5e and setting it in Eberron. Are you familiar with the module?

I'm afraid not. The word "Abbey" does suggest Silver Flame, but bear in mind that the Sovereign Host and even the Blood of Vol are also organized faiths with temples and monastaries. The defining elements of the Silver Flame are that it's the most militaristic, which translates into having a more rigid structure and hierarchy than the others. It's also the most altruistic of the faiths; templars are charged to defend "the innocent" from supernatural threats, regardless of the faith of those innocents... whereas the Sovereign Host doesn't care much about followers of other faiths.

I would also like to ask if you have plans to work on the Codex campaign setting you mentioned in previous posts in the future.

There's a lot of settings out there, and for me one of the questions is if there's a story a setting tells well that you can't tell with other worlds. There are stories that work in Eberron that simply make no sense in Faerun, and vice versa. Likewise, Phoenix is shaped by a series of events that let you tell a certain kind of story especially well. This ties to my "Phoenix In Eberron" post; you COULD drop Phoenixes into Eberron, but the world isn't particularly designed for the sort of story that they excel at... while the world of PDC is.

Codex was, in a sense, a world I was designing for the sake of designing a world. There's a lot of things I really enjoy about it, but at the same time it was hard to clarify the story you could tell there that wouldn't work just as well in Eberron. Thus I set it aside in favor of Phoenix. One factor in this was that 4E was effectively over but 5E didn't exist yet, and that does change things a bit. But I need to see how Phoenix does before I consider another RPG project.

I was wondering if there's any more "official" details on the City of Stilts...

Have you seen the Eye on Eberron article I wrote on Zarash'ak in Dungeon 191?

I have now! Thank you for the direction! I suppose then my question falls to the size of the city. Some sources say it's population is around 6,000, others up to 500,000! Based on how you picture the city, what would you estimate the population of the city to be?

Though, the article does dredge up an extra question...how accurate is the picture it shows? It looks a lot more...mountainous than I expected the Shadow Marches to look.

Personally I'd put it at around 20,000. I don't see the city itself as being huge, so especially in the Webs you'd have some fairly dense populations. Certainly it's the largest city in the Shadow Marches, which primarily caters to small communities.

And no, I don't consider the picture shown to be especially accurate; it doesn't look exceptionally swampy, and the stilts aren't prominent.

How large is a "mighty" murk oak (height and width wise), how many of them make up the city compared to pillars that were dumped to build the stilts around?

A critical point here is that the trees used as the foundation aren't natural. The Gatekeepers are one of the oldest druidic traditions of Eberron, and this is the tool the Marchers have honed over the course of thousands of years. So the trees used in the Heart were grown and shaped by magic to serve this purpose. They are basically living pillars - not simply normal trees grown close together. So I'd estimate around 60-70 feet tall and around ten feet in diameter - which is MUCH wider than a traditional swamp oak. Again, they were basically grown to bear weight.

I can't provide precise numbers as we haven't ever made a map; it's essentially a question of how large you want the city to be. The main point is that the Heart is largely supported by the trees. Beyond that you have the Ring, which is constantly expanding... and that's primarily built on a foundation of mundane industry. The Torrn druids are part of the house but they maintain a low profile; so many of them joining together to help with the Heart was a remarkable event and significant undertaking.

Any plans for more stories featuring Lei, Daine, Pierce and the rest of the original gang?

There's certainly more stories I'd like to tell about Daine and the gang - I never intended for things to be left hanging as they were. Unfortunately, it's really in the hands of WotC and at the moment there's no indication that they have plans for new Eberron fiction. But if the opportunity ever arises, I'll definitely jump at it.

I assume that the basis of Eberron was at least partially formed before the announcement of the [setting] contest.

Actually, it wasn't. Eberron was something I developed from scratch for the Setting Search. When they chose it initially and I had to go from the 1-page overview to the ten-page overview, there was definitely a moment of "Really? OK, let's think this through."

My question is, besides the foundation of pulp/noir/cinematic action, how did the setting emerge? Did you start by building the cosmology? Or perhaps a vague map of Khorvaire? At what point did the Last War get inserted? And what elements were in place before the contest, and what elements emerged as a result of refining the setting as you passed each stage of the contest?

This is an excellent question, and one I don't have time to answer in as much detail as I'd like; at the moment I'm pretty busy managing the last week of my Kickstarter campaign. But I will post a detailed breakdown of this on my blog after the Kickstarter is done.

But touching on a few points: Eberron was literally an idea I made up for the setting search, which was one reason I didn't feel bad about giving it to Wizards; this wasn't my sole world I'd been developing since high school. I've always loved creating worlds. I'd created a number of different settings for my home games (and I took a few ideas from each of them for Eberron)... and beyond that I'd been developing worlds professionally as a computer game designer. By the time Eberron came around I'd been lead designer on two MMORPG projects. The first was a text-based setting called VR1 Crossroads... a blend of modern conspiracies and a fantasy based world of dreams. Lost Continents was a pulp-based MMORPG, so much of the setting was based on the real world... but I was still developing alternate histories, conspiracies, hidden civilizations,systems of magic, etc. Since Eberron I've developed the settings for four other MMORPGs, along with Codex and Phoenix.

Which is a long way of saying that I have a lot of experience and opinions when it comes to creating worlds. One of the pledge levels in my Kickstarter involves a two-hour online world-building workshop & handout, where I'm going to do my best to distill my experiences into a concrete form. But aside from that I'll definitely post some development of Eberron stories after the Kickstarter is over!

Also, I just posted a piece on my blog about the world of Phoenix and some of the elements driving it.


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