Exploring Eberron Review, Part 3

I’m back today with more on the wonderful Exploring Eberron book by Keith Baker and company. Previously we’ve covered the parts of this book dealing with the setting’s ancient history as well as the parts focused on more modern stuff. In this last entry, we’re going to be looking at the “other realms” of the Eberron setting, places that have only been mentioned in passing before and so are completely untrodden ground from the perspective of Eberron fans: the oceans and planes of Eberron.

Oceans of Eberron

Let’s start with what I thought would be the easiest part of the book, an assumption that turns out to be dead wrong. Like so many parts of the Eberron setting, the underwater realm of this world is both complicated and unique. There are kingdoms of fish people and strange relations with the surface world but there are also weird mysteries that make me want to dive underwater on my next foray into the setting and leave the cities of the Dragonmarked Houses behind.

The good news/bad news with this book’s contents is that this is solely about the Thunder Sea region of Eberron. We still have no information on the other oceans of the world, although Keith Baker has been encouraging about that in future projects. Also, it can be assumed that there is as much variety between the Thunder Sea and (say) the Bitter Sea up north and the Sea of Rage to the east as there is between Khorvaire and Sarlona, Xen’drik, and Argonessen. Still, while we wait to see about those other waters, there’s so much in this stretch between Sharn and Stormreach so let’s (ha!) dive in.

Image © KB Presents

The Thunder Sea is a great place to start with, bordering as it does the southern coast of Khorvaire, the northern coast of Xen’drik, and the island nation of Aerenal. There are a lot of major places that lie on the Thunder Sea including Sharn and Stormreach so what happens in the Thunder Sea affects a lot of places that Eberron fans love. The story of the Thunder Sea starts with a demon overlord called the Lurker in Shadow, the creator of aboleths, who claimed the area until dragons dove beneath the waves to battle the Lurker’s forces. Dragons died and horrors were imprisoned but eventually the Lurker was vanquished and these waters became the Eternal Dominion of the sahuagin. They live directly off of this legacy by building their cities on top of and into massive creatures called kar’lassa who impose their magical influence on the seafloor around them like living manifest zones.

Called the “great dreamers,” these titans hibernate and pull sleeping creatures into their dreams rather than sending them to Dal Quor when they sleep. There are twelve kar’lassa, one for each of the planes (besides Dal Quor) and the sahuagin have cities around most of them. They harvest biomatter from the kar’lassa and use this stuff to make their items. The Thunder Sea also features civilizations of merfolk in the upper waters above the sahuagin cities, living amid oceanic manifest zones to Lamannia which are also the source of the Thunder Sea’s famously huge storms. In the waters around Aerenal is the sea elf realm called the Valraean Protectorate in the waters around Aerenal and the fishfolk locathah toil as slaves of the sahuagin. All of these cultures have pages and pages of details and there are new statblocks for a merfolk stormcaller and strange sahuagin servants called claws of Sha’argon and plasmids.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that after reading this chapter you might never want to leave the Thunder Sea again in your next Eberron campaign.

Image © KB Presents

Cosmology

The planes of the Eberron setting are on the short list of things that set this world apart from other D&D settings from it’s very beginning. The three Progenitor dragons and the origin story of Eberron might be similar to other worlds’ origin stories (though we get some great new detail here) but the orbiting planes that surround Eberron are something unique in the franchise’s published settings. Despite that, their influence on the setting has been limited to a cool map, footnotes for planar creatures, and a few manifest zones like Sharn.

That was then, though. With Exploring Eberron we get so much new detail on all the different planes and it will change how you view the setting entirely. Chapter 5: Planes of Existence starts by talking about the nature of planes in the Eberron setting and the different sorts of planar denizens you might encounter. Planes have layers to them (just like the Great Wheel cosmology) so there’s space to fit in other settings’ planar locations as well, and there’s lots of information about how to include planar topics in your regular Eberron campaign. Then we get into a plane-by-plane breakdown…

The dark realm of Khyber is full of twisted demiplanes surrounding the imprisoned demon overlords, both underground from the nations of Eberron and a separate plane as well. Daanvi is a realm of perfect order and it’s both an orderly crossroads and a place of dark control, Dolurrh is the realm of the dead and lost things (with rules for rescuing a soul from the afterlife), Fernia is the “Sea of Flames” and covers all things burning from efreeti to azer, and Risia is the “Plain of Ice” with every frozen element of D&D. Kythri is a realm of churning chaos with slaadi and githzerai, Lamannia is the “Twilight Forest” full of druidic magic and bestial creatures, Shavarath is a battleground realm with incredible scale, Syrania is a flying realm of air magic and graceful creatures, and the maddening realm of Xoriat which becomes a confusing Lovecraftian otherworld in this book.

Image © KB Presents

Two layers are diametric opposites and offer an interesting story element. Irian is a beautiful realm of life and peace while Mabar is a realk of despair and darkness, and between them is the Amaranthine City, a massive metropolis with parts in Irian and parts in Mabar. There’s so much potential in that one area and the rest of these planes also contain plot hook after plot hook. Likewise, I wish I could fully get into the amazing setting of Thelanis which is a dizzying fey realm of stories and wonder. There are many different encounters suggested here (including full stat writeups for two incredibly powerful archfey) but more than that Exploring Eberron has a fascinating take on what this plane actually means and what the nature of the fey (including elves) actually is.

The dream-plane of Dal Quor obviously has a lot of potential and might be the best-detailed plane before this book. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg compared to the picture of Dal Quor given here. Previously, I’d envisioned this place as a swirl of dreams but that’s just one of the layers here. There’s also il-Lashtavar, the dark realm of the quori, and a separate area corresponding to the network of monoliths built in Riedra. Besides this, there are draconic demigods, the Dhakaani dream realm discussed in an earlier post, trapped dreamers, sentient ideas, and much more. Another quori (the du’ulora) is written up in this book to join those from Rising From the Last War.

Image © KB Presents

Conclusion

This book is what makes Eberron great. It takes the stale idea of a knights and wizards setting and adds twists and turns until you don’t know what to expect anymore. There are fantastic locations, enticing plot hooks, and great adversaries but the real value of Exploring Eberron is the vision. After many years and three D&D editions you can start to lose sight of what makes Eberron such an interesting setting. Rising From the Last War can remind you of the unique appeal of Keith Baker’s original concept but it takes Baker himself and the amazing writing team that he’s assembled to pull back the curtain even more and show you that the stuff you don’t know about already is just as breathtaking as the stuff that brought you here to begin with.

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