Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Not the kind with cardstock and pawns. Mostly play by post Mafia so far.

Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby atheistcanuck » Sun Sep 20, 2015 11:49 pm

I may be up for Eberron and maybe Amber Diceless or LOTR, I know almost nothing about Amber in general however and am also not really familiar with the LOTR backstory/myth elements.I have actually read the Eberron core book, though not recently.
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby Anya » Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:21 am

I'm interested and have no solid opinion on which setting to play in.
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby jalapeno_dude » Mon Sep 21, 2015 12:00 pm

Cool! I'm glad I waited beyond the weekend for people to check in. Given that, I'm going to hold the thread open at this stage for a few more days and then we can start the next stage (figuring out the premise/theme of the campaign itself). Feel free to discuss setting in the meantime--right now it's looking like Eberron has the most support.
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby Tamien » Tue Sep 22, 2015 10:27 am

Very tentative interest - I think the idea of play-by-post sounds fun but I wasn't super drawn in by any of the settings. If you can make a plot/premise pitch that will probably decide me.
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby jalapeno_dude » Wed Sep 23, 2015 12:03 am

Okay, I am going to use Tamien's post as a thinly veiled excuse to write a giant infopost about Eberron. Imagine that I am Elspeth transmitting a giant conveniently-recursive summary of the setting to you right now. (I was going to write the post that way, with lots of nested parentheticals, but I decided that it would be annoying.) Unfortunately I don't actually have her superpowers so I will have to convey information in a boringly linear form. But hey, I'm causing specific patterns of neurons to fire in your brain by pressing keys on a keyboard far away, so that's almost like superpowers, right?

I'm going to give the lore from an OOC/not in-universe perspective, but I'll mostly confine myself to the sort of stuff a typical character would know (I'll say what that means later on in the post) so I don't overwhelm you with deep setting lore. Also I am intentionally doing this off the top of my head so I don't get sucked into the books so there may be some slight inaccuracies. Let's do this!

Cosmology/Geography

Eberron is the name of an Earth-sized planet with Earth-like climate (i.e. it has seasons, is mostly covered in water, and has places that are hot and cold and wet and dry). It has a slightly shorter year--12 28-day months=336 days. (In the lore it's stated that at some point in the past Eberron used to have an extra month, which implies that it used to have a 364-day year. This could mean that Eberron used to orbit further out and had a colder climate--that's not stated explicitly in the source material but would fit well with some other facts in the setting. This is also your first example of the number 12, which comes up over and over again in the setting, usually in the form 12=13-1 (as here) or 13=12+1. This is unexplained in-universe, but the author of the setting was Keith Baker so it's possible that he was just really determined to make a Baker's Dozen pun.) Eberron orbits a star and is itself orbited by 12 moons (for which the names of the months in the most commonly used calendar are named). It also has a ring in equatorial orbit over it known as the Ring of Siberys.

In Effulgence terms, the universe that contains Eberron is a worldsheaf. In addition to the Material Plane, which contains the planet itself, there are 13 other planes of existence, which each express some sort of principle, mostly elemental (like Fire and Ice) or moral (like Chaos and Order). Unlike standard D&D setting, the planes are finite in extent, not infinite, and 12 of them "orbit" the material plane, so that there are some times when their influences are more or less important. (There are also portals directly to them from the material plane, and "coterminous zones": places where the influence of a specific plane is particularly strong).

Eberron has a comogony (creation myth): there were three great Progenitor Wyrms (big-ass mythological dragons), siblings, who succeeded in creating all the planes but ended up fighting over the central Material plane. Khyber (female) slew her brother Siberys; his remains became the sky in general and the Ring of Siberys in particular. In the ultimate passive-aggressive act Eberron (also female) embraced her sister and then transmogrified into the planet, spawning life and leaving Khyber trapped as the caverns under the world to spawn monsters. (Opinions differ on which races are monsters and which are "life" in this rubric.)

Now let's look at Eberron itself. Here's a map.

Xen'drik is largely uninhabited by "civilized races": it's half uninhabitable jungle and the rest is uninhabitable desert and uninhabitable ice. Tens of thousands of years ago it was home to an advanced civilization of (literal) giants and there's some interest in venturing into the jungle to go on expeditions to find ruins, mysterious devices of great and terrible power, etc, etc. (There's one other big reason to go to Xen'drik which I'll get to below.) There are also drow, who are totally different than standard (Forgotten Realms) drow because they worship scorpions instead of spiders. (This is a gross misstatement but it's what a typical character would know.)

Aerenal is an island that's home to a bunch of scarily advanced but (mostly; see below) peaceful and non-expansionary elves. They're mainly unusual in that they worship their ancestors to the extent of preserving the most notable of them to give advice as undead (undead fed by positive energy from Irian, the Plane of Eternal Day, not like those yucky skeletons and zombies and vampires that feed on negative energy Mabar, the Plane of Shadow).

Argonnessen is (literally) Where There Be Dragons. Dragons used to be super cool--they saved the world from the Demon Overlords who used to rule it, though their allies the Couatl had to sacrifice themselves to seal them away--but they totally haven't ruled the world in forever, and it seems like all they do is get mad at people who try to come to Argonnessen. They're probably not secretly running the world and manipulating the course of the Draconic Prophecy behind the scenes or anything like that.

Sarlona is a really interesting continent in its own right, and it's where (most) humans came from a few thousand years ago, but there's only one sourcebook on it so I won't focus on it. From the point of view of Khorvaire it's similar to pre-1853 Japan--there's a monolithic isolationist empire (Riedra) that only permits limited trade in one city on the continent.

And Khorvaire is the focus of most of the sourcebooks, and I'll be focusing on it in the rest of the post. Here's a map of it.

Recent History

It is now the year 998 YK. YK is like AUC (the Roman calendar)--it dates from the founding of a state, in this case from the unification of (most of) Khorvaire into the Kingdom of Galifar by a dude named Galifar. Think of him as Charlemagne except the subsequent kingdom was much stabler. Galifar didn't actually conquer the whole continent--the far west was basically uninhabited, he never conquered the far east, and the gnomes of Zilargo joined willingly. And culturally the former independent kingdoms were fairly distinct, so think something loose like the HRE. But for the most part it worked. He and his descendants ruled from Thronehold, an island in the center of the continent, parceling the various provinces/sub-kingdoms and everything went fine for 900 years or so. About a hundred years ago, though, there was a succession dispute, which turned into a civil war, which turned into a five-way free-for-all, which over the course of a century evolved into a twelve(or thirteen, depending on how you count; there's that number again)-way clusterfuck, which everyone called the Last War because surely when it was done everything would be resolved. And then it all went to shit. But before I can tell you about that I need to give you a little more worldbuilding.

Religion

Most people (which means Humans, Half-Elves, Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Orcs, Half-Orcs, Goblins, Halflings, Shifters, Warforged, and Changelings, roughly; I'll go into that later) worship the Sovereign Host, which you can think of like the Greco-Roman pantheon--a big, bickering family of gods and goddesses who totally aren't garbled versions of the dragons who first taught magic to the downtrodden lesser races. They don't do so particularly intensely, though, for a couple of reasons. First, the gods aren't active in the world--clerical magic is a thing, but technically all you need to get that to work, if you have the talent for it, is to believe in something sufficiently strongly (canonically in Eberron, you can do perfectly fine worshipping your shoe as your deity), and unlike some other D&D settings you can't go to another plane and talk to or punch the gods. Second, and related, the afterlife isn't really a thing. Or, more specifically, souls definitely are a thing, but they just go to Dolurrh, the big featureless Plane of the Dead, and sit there for a while before slowly fading away. If you're really religious, you believe that when they fade away some of them go to an afterlife, but there's no proof.

There are two other notable religions on Khorvaire (in addition to some druid nature cults and the ancestor worship of Aerenal elves), which each address these problems in different ways. The first is the Blood of Vol, named for the legendary Erandis d'Vol, last heiress of the elven House of Vol, bearers of the legendary thirteenth (!) Dragonmark of Death (about which more below), who became a vampire. If you're a member of the BoV, you believe that since souls of the dead just fade away, the only true way to immortality is to become an undead and live forever. Since undead here is the yucky negative-energy kind, others tend to look unfavorably upon this.

The other is the Church of the Silver Flame. It doesn't address the afterlife problem, but the other one--it is indisputably a physical presence of the world. Within recorded history, in fact after the founding of Galifar, some shenanigans caused a Demon Overlord (mentioned) to get loose. The standard remedy for this is for one of the surviving coutatl (who I guess are just hanging out waiting for this) to sacrifice themselves to bind the overlord again with Awesome Silver Glowy Couatl Power (TM), but this time in the process a paladin of one of the Sovereign host jumped into the glowy thing in the course of shenanigans and it stayed put as a giant pillar of silver light (i.e. the silver flame), which is now the seat of a monotheistic religion--fantasy Catholicism complete with a pope and cardinals. They've done some neat thing like getting rid of (almost) all the lycanthropes, but they annoy people because they proselytize aggressively and do all the other Big Evil Church things.

The Two Things that make Eberron Different

I'm not done describing it yet, but so far I'm just describing an unusually detailed fairly low-magic D&D setting. However, there are two elements of the setting that push the magic system outside its usual role and therefore push society up to a much more advanced state.

First, dragonshards. Remember how I talked about the Progenitor Wyrms up above? Each of them--and each of the associated portions of the world--has an associated type of dragonshard, which is a glowy magical crystal thing.

Eberron shards are pink and glowy and found a few feet under the surface of the earth (so the easiest way to get them is to grab them out of swamps and marshes). They're basically magical batteries. Using them makes creating magical items much easier--the power source comes from a dragonshard rather than the caster themselves. Because of Eberron dragonshards, cities have magical lights and magical heating and magical mass production and all the sort of things you'd expect in Final Fantasy rather than Forgotten Realms. The use of these dragonshards permits the systematic study of magic, and enables the existence of a whole new type of arcane magic distinct from wizardry or sorcery, called artifice, which is basically magical engineering.

Khyber shards are purple and glowy and are found deep underground in caverns with evil monsters in them. They're worth the risk because they make magical binding, especially of elementals, super easy. That's what enables the Lightning Rail and magical airships and the magical telegraph network and all of the basic WW1-level infrastructure.

Siberys shards are yellow and glowy and are what the Ring of Siberys is made out of. They occasionally fall to Eberron, but of course the ring is above the equator so they fall in equatorial regions. Looking back at the world map, this conveniently excludes Khorvaire, which means you have to go somewhere else to get them. And of course you can't buy them from the dragons and the elves and Riedrans drive a hard bargain, so it's easiest to mount an expedition to Siberys, where they're just lying on the ground for anyone to find. This is the other big reason to go seek your fortune in Xen'drik. Siberys shards are useful because they enhance dragonmarks.

And what are dragonmarks? Totally not the next stage of the development of the mysterious Draconic Prophecy which the dragons haven't been manipulating the rest of the world for tens or hundreds of thousands of years to bring about, why did you ask? No, dragonmarks are glowy magical tattoo thingies which are hereditary features of certain families. There are twelve of them in all (one appears to gnomes, one to dwarfs, two to halflings, one to orcs and half-orcs, the rest to humans and elves and half-elves), plus the thirteenth (!) one, the Mark of Death, that appeared to elves in Aerenal and was wiped out except for the Erandis d'Vol, last bearer of the Mark of Death, who totally isn't still wandering the world and manipulating the Blood of Vol from a secret base on a remote island in the Northeast of the Lhazaar Principalities and in any case can't use the mark now that she's a vampire.

Each of the marks is useful for some particular purpose--e.g. the Mark of Hospitality of House Ghallanda (who run the best inns) or the Mark of Making of House Cannith (who are the best artificers) or the Mark of Handling of House Vadalis (who breed the best animals). So each of the Dragonmarked Houses has taken advantage of their comparative advantage to become a super-powerful guild. As part of the formation of Galifar, they agreed not to hold titles of nobility in exchange for official monopolies over their respective areas. The abilities granted by dragonmarks, enhanced by Siberys shards, have bootstrapped Khorvaire to a level of technology beyond subsistence farming. It's not quite an Industrial Revolution per se, but the continent is definitely going through an early-20th-century-style process of urbanization, specialization, and education.

The Five Nations

So when the succession crisis started Galifar broke up into five kingdoms each ruled by one of the last king's children, along the lines of the preexisting cultural divisions (plus the gnomes, who were always semi-autonomous). Here, take another look at the map.

If we're going with the WWI analogy, Karrnath is Tsarist Russia. It's the last place on Khorvaire where feudalism is still a thing, and it has the highest proportion of peasants and the lowest percentage in cities. It had the bright idea of raising its soldiers as undead after they died so they could keep fighting. (Mindless ones, by the way: skeletons and zombies, and it's clear that this is only raising the body, not doing anything to the soul. So dislike of this among the other nations is clearly irrational prejudice.) Not coincidentally, it's the traditional heartland of Blood of Vol worship, and its rulers converted for most of the war, though the last one, Kaius III, cracked down on the cult.

Breland, on the other hand, is sort of like the UK. It has moved the furthest away from absolute monarchy, ending up as a constitutional monarchy with a parliament by the end of the war. Climate makes it the breadbasket of the continent, and it also has the best access to the riches of Xen'drik. It's the closest to the stereotypical Good Fantasy Kingdom.

Thrane is where Flamekeep, the center of the Silver Flame, is, and at a particularly bad point during the war it demoted its ruling family to a figurehead and became a theocracy. This pissed off all the other countries and there were lots of atrocities committed on both sides of the war.

Aundair is the nation with the strongest magical tradition. It had a large Silver Flame minority which it cracked down on hard during the war. I can't remember anything else relevant that I'm not going to mention a little later.

And Cyre was sort of like classical Greece, with all the artists and performers and inventors. You won't find it on the map anymore; this is the shit I mentioned above and that I promised I'll get to.

That's the Five Nations.

But What About All Those Other Countries?

So as I said the war degenerated into a total clusterfuck. In particular most of the Five Nations lost vast swaths of land in various ways:

Breland lost the extremely sparsely populated west of the country to a trio of hags (the scary fairy tale ones with a coven, one eye between them, etc.) who founded Droaam, which has sort of become the de facto country for the "monstrous races" (gnolls, harpies, etc.).

Aundair lost the entire west of the country to a rebellion of peasants pissed at being exploited to pay for and fight the war, who fought off the rest of Aundair with support of a whole bunch of druids to form the Eldeen Reaches.

The dwarves who lived in the northeast of Karrnath seceded more-or-less peacefully to form the Mror Holds. It helps that the dwarven dragonmarked house is House Kundarak, which mints currency and runs everyone's bank accounts. Also the dinosaur-riding nomadic halflings (!!!) in the Talenta Plains declared independence when no one was paying attention to them.

Cyre tried to rely on mercenaries and kept getting burned. It imported a bunch of horseback-riding elvish mercenaries from Aerenal, who decided to found their own country, Valenar, in the southeast of Cyre, with the support of a human population which didn't really care that much about Cyre. And basically the same thing happened with goblins in the southwest who became Darguun, except they had already been there (and were in Khorvaire way before humans were).

What about those other places on the map? Zilargo is where most of the gnomes live. The Shadow Marches is basically a big Eberron-shard-mining company outpost run by orcs and half-orcs and humans, especially the ones belonging to House Tharashk, whose Mark of Finding makes them very good at shard-finding (and also Hufflepuffs). The Demon Wastes is where most of the Demon Overlords are buried. Don't go there. Finally, the very east of the continent is where Galifar never reached. Ironically, a whole bunch of Galifar true believers set up shop there once it became clear the war was not going to end with reunification and are busy oppressing/murdering/tolerating the lizardfolk who were already there and getting raided by the various feuding pirate kings of the Lhazaar Principalities.

I Guess I Should Probably Say Something About Races

Eberron adds a whole bunch of races to the standard D&D 3.5 ones (which are basically the ones in LOTR plus gnomes). For the most part all of them are integrated into everyday society, but there are a few mostly-monoracial enclaves:

Humans are the dominant race in terms of numbers. Galifar was human so they also make up most of the nobility. But the dragonmarked houses are mixed so they don't necessarily have all the power.

Most elves are in Aerenal, but there are fair number of them assimilated and native to Khorvaire as well. And there's also the whole set of equestrian nomads running Valenar at the moment, who also do ancestor-worship but in a different way than most of the Aereni.

Half-elves are a separate race in Eberron (not just the offspring of a human and an elf). They're the newest race, the only humanoid one to orginate on Khorvaire, and a few of the dragon-marks appear only to half-elves, so there's a weird sort of half-elf nationalism movement or whatever going on.

Dwarves are mostly integrated but they also make up almost all of the Mror Holds (with a whole complicated political structure, probably with 13-1 clans or something like that).

Gnomes are mostly integrated but are also the majority in Zilargo, which is basically gnome Switzerland except with dystopian secret police. The gnomish dragonmarked house is House Sivis, which runs the telegraph system. The gnomes are the ones who pioneered elemental binding using Siberys crystals.

Goblins had a whole civilization thousands of years ago that may or may not have been killed off by an extraplanar invasion. Most cities have a goblin underclass which the humans discriminate against. Plus there's Darguun.

Orcs and half-orcs are the hippy nature lovers of the setting. The various druidic orders were all orcish and founded before humans came to Khorvaire.

Shifters are also naturey-types, but more the barbarian "I'm going to turn into a bear now" type. Mostly nomadic and in rural regions.

Changelings can alter their appearance more or less at will. About half of them are assimilated into the human population and keep a stable form and pretend to be humans; of the rest, about half are running organized crime syndicates and the other half have a weird religious thing about always maintaining their true forms.

Finally, warforged were created by House Cannith, the artificing house, as soldiers during the war. Inconveniently, they turned out to have souls and free will. When the war ended (see below) the peace treaty required them to be released into the civilian population, but Cannith was also forced to stop making more of them.

So, how'd the war end?

In 994 YK, 4 years before the present day, Cyre was having a really bad time. For various reasons, it decided to invade Karrnath, failed and got pushed back, and got attacked in a massive coordinated surprise assault by Aundair, Thrane, and Breland. Then things got even worse. As far as anyone can tell, Cyre simply ceased to exist. Giant walls of mist appeared at the borders of the country (and not the official borders, the de facto ones excluding Darguun and Valenar). A few thousand people, maybe, managed to escape, talking about spells going mad and poisonous gas and all sorts of crazy things. Then, no one. That day--Olarune 20th, 994 YK, is known as the Day of Mourning, and what was once Cyre is now the Mournland. Cyre was effectively obliterated as a political unit, the Five Nations reduced to Four, and this shocked the nations into a ceasefire and then eventually into peace negotiations. Small groups of people have ventured back into the Mournland, and though it's no longer immediately fatal it's extremely hostile to life. But Cyre was extremely rich, not to mention the center of House Cannith, which is now split into three groups, and a number of groups have ventured in for various reasons--Cyran loyalists to try to recover the regalia of Cyre, warforged to attempt to find some way of creating more of themselves...

Oh My God I Just Wrote 4000 Words of This

So, that's a brief taste of Eberron. I think it's a genuinely interesting setting, but it also plays to my strengths as a writer and a DM: there's a lot of source material to exploit, probably over 1000 pages of sourcebooks (plus some novels I've never read), and what I do best is taking existing information and combining and twisting it in new ways.

So, what can you do in Eberron? Here are a couple of potential campaigns off the top of my head:

-I've had a lot of success with starting immediately before or on the Day of Mourning itself. In this case the players would be Cyrans who somehow survive the Day of Mourning. Then there are lots of ways to go from there: political maneuvering to keep Cyre a viable state; desperate research to try to reverse it, or prevent something like it from happening again, or figure out how to exploit it was a weapon; attempting to find new meaning with one's country and home and family gone.
-There's always the whole "expedition to Xen'drik" thing. This could be played lots of different ways: a straight-up Indiana Jones-style race-the-evil-organization-to-the-artifact, a wild West gold-rush scenario, a Heart of Darkness-style descent into madness as the expedition succumbs to the Horrors that destroyed the Giants, an anthropological expedition to make contact with the Drow...
-Did I mention something about a Draconic Prophecy?
-Anti-deathism in Eberron. Go Blood of Vol!
-Warforged trying to figure out their origins and the future of their race.
-Political and corporate intrigue with the dragonmarked houses.
-If something is named the Last War the Next War is right around the corner. Espionage time!
-Casablanca in Thronehold, the only neutral territory left in Khorvaire.
-Pirates!
-Let's all be artificers and bootstrap Eberron even further. Magical transistors?
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby PlainDealingVillain » Wed Sep 23, 2015 1:40 am

You see why I like Eberron? Just to add my favorite tidbits you missed: There's actually a more direct Casablanca analogue in the setting; the headquarters of the House Lyrandar (ships and weather) is an independent island up north, which is kept at a nice climate and was a hotbed of spies all war long. Also, there are conspiracy theories about the Day of Mourning, since one of the dragonmark houses had its HQ there but had literally everyone important out of the country that day. Oh, and there are 12 dwarven clans, including House Kundarak, but there was formerly a 13th. (And I'd never noticed the Baker's Dozen joke before.)
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby Kappa » Wed Sep 23, 2015 5:20 am

...Are those maps meant to be so teeny weeny? Because they are both teeny and weeny to the point where they don't really contain any useful information about Eberron geography.

But apart from that, this is a delicious information post and I solidly support playing an Eberron thing.
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby Bluelantern » Wed Sep 23, 2015 8:33 am

It is possible to worship your own glorious self? I am tempted to combine a few things with a stray character concept in my head and play as a oddly/monstrously-shaped warforged cleric.
Sorry for my bad english

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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby Alicorn » Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:52 am

That was a beautifully assembled information post. I'm almost tempted, but after an adolescence rife with D&D I have found that glowfic suits all my needs an order of magnitude better than crunch-based RP. I wish you luck and will spy on you while you write.
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby Tamien » Wed Sep 23, 2015 11:12 am

@kappa if you chop off the stuff after the ? (or actually, after the .jpg) on the map links, they embiggen to nice, large, explorable size

Eberron map
Khorvaire map
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