A Different Take on Dolurrh

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A Different Take on Dolurrh

Post by Beoric » Fri Apr 14, 2017 5:19 am

I have been thinking about the role of the three planes, Thelanis, Dal Quor, and Dolurrh, and their relationship to Eberron. I can't remember if there was any particular connection between them in 3e, but in the 4e cosmology they are all reflections of Eberron."echo planes, imperfect reflections of the world", known as the Coils of Eberron.

Now, it is easy to see similarities between Thelanis and Dal Quor and their relationship to Eberron. Thelanis is a source or depository of Eberron's stories, the stories people consciously tell; in a sense it is a representation of imagination, unfettered by logic or physical realities. Dal Quor can be viewed as a source or depository of the stories told by our unconscious minds, and is a representation of our dreams. Both of these planes can be viewed as representing an aspect of our psyches.

But what does Dolurrh represent? As the land of the dead, it appears to be a different kind of reflection of reality than Thelanis and Dal Quor, which appear to be linked to aspects of our thoughts. And how to distinguish it from the other undead-related plane, Mabar? And what is the deal with the ghosts fading over time?

What if Dolurrh is not truly the land of the dead in the way most people think? What if Dolurrh really represents memory, and its landscape and inhabitants merely the products of those who remember things dead or lost? They are grey and washed out because of our imperfect memories, and fade over time as our memories of them fade. Are the ghosts truly souls, or just the memories of people, or could they be both? Could we keep those souls from fading by keeping the memory of them alive? If you meet the ghost of Galifar in Dolurrh, are you meeting him as he was, or as legend and oral history remember him to be?

What if you could search Dolurrh for half-forgotten secrets, faded knowledge that no longer exists in living memory, but still having a limited existence because it was committed to some book or tablet buried in a crypt and long lost by mortal minds, or kept alive only by folktales and children's rhymes that have lost their meaning to those who recite them?

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Re: A Different Take on Dolurrh

Post by enderxenocide0 » Fri Apr 14, 2017 3:59 pm

You know, I kind of always treated Dolurrh like this and a part of me thought that it was supposed to represent this. It just seemed... obvious? But I don't know that anything in 3.5 canon actually supported that notion. Anyway, point is: yes, I think that is the best way to portray Dolurrh.

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Re: A Different Take on Dolurrh

Post by willpell » Fri Apr 14, 2017 5:34 pm

Makes sense. And works especially well for a Ghostwalk crossover, as it neatly explains the difference between undead-ghosts and spirit-ghosts - the latter are ectoplasmic bodies formed around the memory of a deceased person, while the former are animate negative-energy voids.

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Re: A Different Take on Dolurrh

Post by Big Mac » Sat Apr 15, 2017 1:07 pm

Beoric wrote:I have been thinking about the role of the three planes, Thelanis, Dal Quor, and Dolurrh, and their relationship to Eberron. I can't remember if there was any particular connection between them in 3e, but in the 4e cosmology they are all reflections of Eberron."echo planes, imperfect reflections of the world", known as the Coils of Eberron.
In (the 3e) Eberron Campaign Setting the Plans of Existence are described as orbiting the Material Plane (Eberron) in a similar way to the way that electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom (or the way that planets orbit a sun in a star system).

Eberron Campaign Setting, Part 3: Eberron World and Planar Calendar Utility givs you the relative positions of the Planes (including Thelanis, Dal Quor, and Dolurrh) but doesn't give you any clues to how close they are to each other.

In Planescape, the Great Wheel has connections that allow people to walk from one plane to the next (in a giant circle) but I see nothing like that in Eberron. (I have even wondered about making "planets" in "Sharnspace" that were linked to those planes and following the orbits described in ECS.)

I don't know the 4e Eberron cosmology, but I do know that some changes were made.

I'm not sure if either edition reflects exactly how Keith Baker would have set up the cosmology, if he had not created Eberron for D&D. So it's hard to know which is "closer to his vision". :?
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Re: A Different Take on Dolurrh

Post by ThePurple » Sat Apr 15, 2017 4:15 pm

Since Eberron was designed with 3e in mind, I expect that the baseline cosmology is how the HellCow would have set it up on his own. The 4e Eberron cosmology was tweaked pretty heavily in order to fit in with the Astral Sea/Elemental Chaos (some of the "planes" of Eberron wander around in the aether of the Astral Sea, some in the aether of the Elemental Chaos, and then there's the "mirror planes" which fulfill the role of the Feywild and Shadowfell, but they also include Dal Quor since it fits the theme) construct that 4e used everywhere (Astral Sea with the Astral Dominions, Elemental Chaos which has the Abyss, Parallel Planes which include Material, Feywild, and Shadowfell; some variation of this cosmology was even used in Forgotten Realms and Dark Sun).

I'm not really fond of the 4e cosmology, especially insofar as the other campaign settings seemed forced to use it, which is why I don't use it personally. I tend to prefer a more planetary approach, with the planes being connected to the world via the moons (the Sundering of Dal Quor was the giants using their magic to literally send the moon into a different, more distant orbit and the Shattering of Xen'drik was the metaphysical equivalent of Newton's Third Law in response to *pushing an entire moon*; Xoriat has an extremely elliptical orbit which is why it only approaches very rarely), though my players tend to prefer politics and grunge adventure to cosmology and high knowledge so it doesn't really come up often.

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Re: A Different Take on Dolurrh

Post by Beoric » Sat Apr 15, 2017 4:28 pm

I've never thought of the 3e cosmology and the 4e cosmology as being in conflict with each other. I have always though of each of them as modelling a different aspect of planar behaviour. The 3e cosmology does a better job of modelling the relationship of the planes to Eberron, and the 4e cosmology does a better job of modelling the relationship of the planes to each other. They are only models, neither of which accurately describe the physical reality of the Eberron multiverse, but which are useful for predicting certain behaviours and relationships.

There is no unifying theory, and I think that is a good thing. It is the messiness of the setting, the bits that we understand intuitively but can't quite fit into an orderly explanation of everything, that make the setting feel real. Eberron works best because the sourcebooks use unreliable narration and always raise questions. Both the GM and the players are discovering reality as they go.

It occurs to me that, by design, Eberron isn't just a sandbox for the players, its a sandbox for the GM. I wonder if part of the reason it is not as popular as, say, the Forgotten Realms, is because the 3e philosophy for adventure design isn't exactly supportive of sandboxes, with its published adventures being largely comprised of linear railroads with heavily scripted plots and a propensity for explaining every damn thing. That is, its presentation in adventures has, to date, appealed to one sort of gaming group, while the setting itself appeals to another.

Or is it a coincidence that people around here rarely discuss Eberron published adventures but go on at length about their homebrew campaigns? How many of you have used the published adventures in your campaigns?

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Re: A Different Take on Dolurrh

Post by Big Mac » Sun Apr 16, 2017 1:53 am

ThePurple wrote:Since Eberron was designed with 3e in mind, I expect that the baseline cosmology is how the HellCow would have set it up on his own.
You bring up an interesting point here. Eberron wasn't just designed with 3e in mind, it was designed specifically for 3e (and Keith Baker also had a bunch of other outlines that might have taken the place of Eberron if they had been chosen instead).

The feeling I've always gotten from Eberron is that the actual game mechanics are standard D&D mechanics (and you can do anything you can do in mainstream D&D) but Eberron reboots some of the background.

The cosmology is actually an interesting example of this. While 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D had the Great Wheel, 3e switched to having a core of Inner Planes and the concept of Outer Planes, but made the Outer Planes different for every campaign setting. (Greyhawk kept the Great Wheel, Forgotten Realms got something different, Dragonlance returned to what it had in Dragonlance Adventures). Eberron got this planet-orbit like system of planes.

It's unique enough that it does make me wonder if this is how Keith Baker would have done it (had he been creating Eberron as a 3rd Party Publisher campaign setting). But I also sometimes wonder if Eberron would have just used the Great Wheel, had Keith Baker gotten involved in D&D back in the 2nd Edition Era.

As that isn't how Keith designed the setting, I don't think we could ever find out the answer to that, but we certainly could find out how he would like to use the 5e cosmology with Eberron, if WotC open that system up to Eberron. :)
ThePurple wrote:The 4e Eberron cosmology was tweaked pretty heavily in order to fit in with the Astral Sea/Elemental Chaos (some of the "planes" of Eberron wander around in the aether of the Astral Sea, some in the aether of the Elemental Chaos, and then there's the "mirror planes" which fulfill the role of the Feywild and Shadowfell, but they also include Dal Quor since it fits the theme) construct that 4e used everywhere (Astral Sea with the Astral Dominions, Elemental Chaos which has the Abyss, Parallel Planes which include Material, Feywild, and Shadowfell; some variation of this cosmology was even used in Forgotten Realms and Dark Sun).
That's true. 4e did move things about some. And I'm thinking that there are several different motivations for the various changes. I'm not sure it's possible to know what was what, unless Keith himself is kind enough to tell us what he changed and why he changed it.
ThePurple wrote:I'm not really fond of the 4e cosmology, especially insofar as the other campaign settings seemed forced to use it, which is why I don't use it personally. I tend to prefer a more planetary approach, with the planes being connected to the world via the moons (the Sundering of Dal Quor was the giants using their magic to literally send the moon into a different, more distant orbit and the Shattering of Xen'drik was the metaphysical equivalent of Newton's Third Law in response to *pushing an entire moon*; Xoriat has an extremely elliptical orbit which is why it only approaches very rarely), though my players tend to prefer politics and grunge adventure to cosmology and high knowledge so it doesn't really come up often.
I've heard the same sort of criticism made against the Great Wheel cosmology. :)

On the one hand a bespoke cosmology allows a setting designer to have a lot more freedom. On the other hand a tie-in to a central "Manual of the Planes" book allows for a GM to be able to run a game that deals with the planes via a separate book, and doesn't require a setting designer to burn up hundreds of pages on cosmological information that other GMs are not interested in.

I think there are pros and cons both ways.

One way where I can see the 4e "mirror" thing being an advantage is that you get a structure to the planes, without burning up hundreds of pages, but you also have something that is bespoke to the campaign setting. That's not something new. Dragonlance had The Abyss being a "Dark mirror of Krynn" in the Legends trilogy. That's way way before WotC took over D&D.

One of the things that is interesting about Beoric's idea is that a GM could just grab a map of Eberron (or a local map of part of Eberron) and run a campaign on that map. And if Dolurrh is a memory of Eberron that would mean that murdered people would still be walking around in Dolurrh and burned down buildings would still be standing. In fact it might even be possible to travel into the Mournlands and see intact parts of Cyre (that have not vanished yet).

There is an interesting scene in Richard Baker's Blades of the Moonsea trilogy that deals with a mirror plane. It's a Forgotten Realms trilogy, but it has the Plane of Shadow as a mirror of Toril and the characters in the story can visit distorted versions of towns on the Material Plane. Some buildings and structures are different in that Shadowfell version, but it's similar enough to the Material Plane that you can recognise things.

I think that if I was going to go with Beoric's idea, I would probably reread the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms fiction that does similar stuff to see if I could borrow those ideas (and give them a twist).

Havard actually took this very idea a while back and created a set of variant Mystara maps that represent maps of several of the Planes of Mystara. So it's possible that Beoric (or another Eberron fan) could sit down and create a map of Dolurrh at some point. :)
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Re: A Different Take on Dolurrh

Post by Beoric » Sun Apr 16, 2017 5:10 am

Big Mac wrote: In fact it might even be possible to travel into the Mournlands and see intact parts of Cyre (that have not vanished yet).
Only if anyone is alive who remembers them, and only as they are remembered. With so few Cyrans left alive to remember, the memory of Cyre might be fading, and also likely idealized among the survivors.

I wouldn't map any of the planes in any but the most general way. Well, except Daanvi. The instant you do so you put constraints on yourself as a GM. And we specifically are talking about Imagination, Memory and Unconsciousness here: if ever there was a place to use "theatre of the mind", this is it.

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Re: A Different Take on Dolurrh

Post by ThePurple » Sun Apr 16, 2017 8:31 am

Big Mac wrote:In fact it might even be possible to travel into the Mournlands and see intact parts of Cyre (that have not vanished yet).
I vaguely recall somewhere that the Mourning actually had interplanar effects that, in the mirror planes, made it so that old Cyre/the Mournland was simply nonexistent: the Dead Gray Mist that exists there is simply an impassable barrier, which is why you can't plane walk while in the Mournland (an interesting variant of this might be that the Dead Gray Mist is simply *exponentially more powerful* in the mirror planes so it becomes epic tier instead of paragon to explore; if you can survive the extremely powerful and thick Dead Gray Mist, you might find a true memory of Cyre somewhere frozen beyond the border mists; the inability to planewalk could either be a safety mechanism built into the spell itself to prevent those not powerful enough to survive from even attempting or it could be just that much harder to punch through).

One of the problems I have with the "Dolurrh is the plane of memory" idea is that all memory is contextual. Two people's memories of the exact same person, event, or place can be *entirely different* (which is why you can get 2 eyewitnesses to the same event giving completely different stories while neither of them is actually lying; the act of remembering something causes you to break down the protein chains in your long term memory and then recreate them in your short-term memory; when you're done, that memory could very easily have been tweaked in your short term memory, because that's what happens there, but it is then encoded back in your long term memory from the version that was at your short-term memory at the end; this is how memory manipulation and fabrication occurs).

If Dolurrh was a "plane of memory", everyone's memories would need to be absolutely consistent or there would need to be a different version for every major iteration. In this sense, I see Dal Quor as more of a "plane of memory" (since one theory about dreams is that they're how our subconscious interacts with our memories; as such, every dreamscape would have the potential of every memory a person has but only one is accessible at a time; this makes the dreams that Hags deal in extremely interesting since the most powerful ones might actually be able to subtly manipulate or even erase/steal memories from a specific individual if they were compelled to do so).

As such, I see Dolurrh more as just the place souls go while they're being recycled by the universe (as opposed to Mabar, which is actually an animating force directly opposed to life; Dolurrh is entropy while Mabar is anti-creation; Dolurrh returns everyone to 0 while Mabar is actually negative numbers); it's the spiritual compost heap of the multiverse where souls go after death and fade away. In this way, it's only tied to Thalanis (which is the source of inspiration/myth/etc) and Dal Quor (the dreamscape) insofar as its geography is generally a mirror of Eberron (since only entities of the material plane actually have souls so there's no need for compost heaps for the other planes). *Functionally* and thematically, it exists on its own because there's nowhere else for the souls to stick around while wasting away (in much the same way that Xoriat is ).

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Re: A Different Take on Dolurrh

Post by Big Mac » Sun Apr 16, 2017 11:08 am

Beoric wrote:I've never thought of the 3e cosmology and the 4e cosmology as being in conflict with each other. I have always though of each of them as modelling a different aspect of planar behaviour. The 3e cosmology does a better job of modelling the relationship of the planes to Eberron, and the 4e cosmology does a better job of modelling the relationship of the planes to each other. They are only models, neither of which accurately describe the physical reality of the Eberron multiverse, but which are useful for predicting certain behaviours and relationships.
Oooh! That's interesting. That's what I call a "Ben Kenobi solution" (where apparently conflicting things are "correct" from "a different point of view").

I do like the idea of using both maps. :)
Beoric wrote:There is no unifying theory, and I think that is a good thing. It is the messiness of the setting, the bits that we understand intuitively but can't quite fit into an orderly explanation of everything, that make the setting feel real. Eberron works best because the sourcebooks use unreliable narration and always raise questions. Both the GM and the players are discovering reality as they go.
I think that sort of thing is a lot easier when you are dealing with mundane stuff, where a GM and players would have real-world experience that gives them clues about how the gameworld works. When you start to make changes people tend to need explanations (and designers tend to need to burn up more words explaining details that NPCs and PCs would probably know so well that they ignore them).

The cosmology of Eberron is one of those things. But the moons are also things that need some explanation. They can all cause eclipses (or at least can cause transits) and there are possible effects (like lycanthropy) that many people are bound to ask about. And if the moons and the planes are somehow connected, that is bound to make some people question the relationships between them.
Beoric wrote:It occurs to me that, by design, Eberron isn't just a sandbox for the players, its a sandbox for the GM. I wonder if part of the reason it is not as popular as, say, the Forgotten Realms, is because the 3e philosophy for adventure design isn't exactly supportive of sandboxes, with its published adventures being largely comprised of linear railroads with heavily scripted plots and a propensity for explaining every damn thing. That is, its presentation in adventures has, to date, appealed to one sort of gaming group, while the setting itself appeals to another.
I'd say that the setting is always the GMs sandbox. Players get to have their input after the GM has created the world.

I think there are very few D&D adventures that manage to make enough space for lots of branching. It burns up a lot of space. Even before 3rd Edition this was true. I've met a lot of people who have always avoided writing adventures. But, I do think it is possible to treat adventures as "adventure sourcebooks" and use the plot elements in a different way. I don't think a GM has to use the railroad if they don't want to.

One thing that I think comes into this is that commercial adventures are optimised towards people who are not able to create adventures. So perhaps designers consider those GMs need extra help.

I personally like the idea of an adventure plot being "this is what is going to happen if the PCs sit back and do nothing", because then a GM can look at what the PCs do to see how far they push the plot into another direction. I also think that it should always be possible for the PCs to "win" every goal that is put up against them (even if some goals are very difficult and others are relatively easy) and that it should always be possible for PCs to "fail" (without all dying or having the entire world blow up).
Beoric wrote:Or is it a coincidence that people around here rarely discuss Eberron published adventures but go on at length about their homebrew campaigns? How many of you have used the published adventures in your campaigns?
That's a good point.

To be honest, I tended to view Eberron adventures as poor value for money, relative to the sourcebooks, becuase the adventures had much much lower page counts, but were not massively cheaper. I think that the new 5 model (of having big adventures) makes them feel like better value for money.

(Ironically, I'm now interested in the RPGA campaigns for Eberron, which had even smaller adventures than the mainstream ones.)

We should have more topics about individual Eberron adventures. Maybe people can share suggestions about how to get the best out of them all. Perhaps someone who has used one of the adventures could actually share any "Fan Enhancements" they created to go with them. :)
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Re: A Different Take on Dolurrh

Post by Beoric » Mon Apr 17, 2017 5:36 am

ThePurple wrote:One of the problems I have with the "Dolurrh is the plane of memory" idea is that all memory is contextual. Two people's memories of the exact same person, event, or place can be *entirely different* ...

If Dolurrh was a "plane of memory", everyone's memories would need to be absolutely consistent or there would need to be a different version for every major iteration.
I am proposing that it is an amalgam of people's memories, like Thelanis may be an amalgam of their stories and imaginations. Strongly remembered people/places/events are portrayed strongly, and those less remembered are portrayed weakly. That is part of why they are a bit fuzzy around the edges, and washed out, and if there are a couple of strongly remembered versions they may flicker between the two. Spirits fade over time as fewer and fewer people remember them, and disappear when they are completely forgotten.
Big Mac wrote:I'd say that the setting is always the GMs sandbox. Players get to have their input after the GM has created the world.
Hmm, I’m not so sure that other settings facilitate GM sandboxing so well. For example, I believe FR novels are considered to be canon, and Eberron novels are expressly noted not to be. The Eberron sourcebooks can be said to have an unreliable narrator, which is not true of other settings, and they often provide alternate explanations, or no explanations at all, for various events and phenomena. Canon is expressly mutable.

We don’t know if gods exist. We don’t know what caused the Mourning. We don’t know if warforged have souls. We don’t really know what happens to souls when characters die. What does the Mark of Death do? What is up with Kaius’ wife? Is Krozen a devout cleric of the Silver Flame, or does he really follow the Shadow in the Flame? On the other hand, the gods walk the Forgotten Realms and interact with mortals, we know what caused the Spellplague, etc. It is an entirely different approach to the world.
Big Mac wrote:I think there are very few D&D adventures that manage to make enough space for lots of branching. It burns up a lot of space. Even before 3rd Edition this was true. I've met a lot of people who have always avoided writing adventures. But, I do think it is possible to treat adventures as "adventure sourcebooks" and use the plot elements in a different way. I don't think a GM has to use the railroad if they don't want to.

One thing that I think comes into this is that commercial adventures are optimised towards people who are not able to create adventures. So perhaps designers consider those GMs need extra help.
2e adventures largely don’t have much branching, but 1e adventures, particularly pre-Dragonlance, sometimes do. At least, the ones that didn’t start as tournament adventures. Look at Village of Hommlet, or Keep on the Borderlands, where there is a detailed home base with a lot going on and ties to the dungeon, and complete freedom as to how you engage with the inhabitants. Or The Lost City, which has physical branching in the dungeon, but also has many opportunities to interact with different factions, to gain allies or assistance or play them against each other.

Those adventures had a lot more decisions points, and they were able to support a sandbox style of play more than later adventures, because of the writing style and presentation which allowed them to fit more into the space allotted.

There is a sweet spot in adventure writing between providing enough information to inspire, and providing so much information that you constrain. If the adventure does not provide enough information for a location or NPC, the GM is pretty much starting from scratch as to how to run it. If the adventure provides too much you have two problems: (a) you can’t find the canon information in the wall of text; and (b) you can’t risk going off script because you could fail to give the adventurers some vital item or piece of information, or give them too much, the adventure fails.

If you read a lot of those old adventures you will note that room descriptions are usually no more than a paragraph or two. At its best, you get a description with relevant features only, the monsters if any, the monster’s motivations and maybe personality, and a description of the treasure if any. Just enough information to inspire the GM without so much that it got in the way. There was rarely any discussion of mechanics; GMs were assumed to be able to adjudicate any actions that arose on their own.

The entries were often short enough that you could easily read them in their entirety just at the PCs were about to enter the room, or talk to the NPC, or whatever. Saying more with less supports the GM at the table because he doesn’t have to hunt for information to run the encounter.

“Modern” adventures (and I’m confining myself to 2e, 2e and 4e because I haven’t read enough 5e to generalize) do the opposite. They may purport to be written for GMs who need help, by including masses of information on tactics (rarely helpful), mechanics (including for features rarely used) and background (rarely relevant). Generally followed with words equivalent to “the monsters attack on sight and fight to the death.” Lots of irrelevant information and no decision points. These entries generally fail to inspire, and tend to constrain the GM’s choices in adjudications.

Sure, a good, experienced GM can fix that, with copious notes and a highlighter and by refusing to swallow the mechanics the adventure if shoving down his throat. But what a good, experienced GM is doing is removing all of the extraneous information that I am saying ought not to have been there in the first place, and adding the inspirational notes that ought to have been there in the first place. Even if he is doing it in his head.

And the inexperienced GM doesn’t have the tools to do that. In fact, the inexperienced GM is learning what an adventure should be like from running that published adventure.

Not to say there haven’t been improvements since those early adventures, but they aren’t happening at WotC. At least they weren’t by the end of the 4e era, and while I am told that the 5e adventures have been better, they still aren’t coming close to the best things coming out of the OSR.

Coming back to my thesis, the Eberron setting does exactly what I am talking about with the adventures. It gives you enough information to inspire you, without constraining you with things you don’t need to know to run your campaign. And the real genius is that it is written and organized in a fashion that allows you to absorb a lot of setting information and remember it.

Unfortunately, the Eberron adventures, even the decent ones, are written in standard WotC wall-of-text style. I am not certain of how much of this was a requirement of WotC’s style criteria, and I know of at least one occasion where WotC interference partially de-Eberronized an adventure, but in any event, it means that the published adventures support a different style of play than the sourcebooks do.
Big Mac wrote:We should have more topics about individual Eberron adventures. Maybe people can share suggestions about how to get the best out of them all. Perhaps someone who has used one of the adventures could actually share any "Fan Enhancements" they created to go with them. :)
Sure, if anyone is interested, and as long as they aren’t Keith’s adventures. It would feel really strange to rework Keith’s adventures in a public forum that he so generously contributes to. Which is a shame, in a way, because I generally like Keith’s adventures better than the others.

Hmm, anyone want to talk about “The Queen with Burning Eyes”?

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Re: A Different Take on Dolurrh

Post by Big Mac » Sat Apr 29, 2017 2:44 pm

Beoric wrote:
Big Mac wrote: In fact it might even be possible to travel into the Mournlands and see intact parts of Cyre (that have not vanished yet).
Only if anyone is alive who remembers them, and only as they are remembered. With so few Cyrans left alive to remember, the memory of Cyre might be fading, and also likely idealized among the survivors.
There is a colony of Cyrans in a nearby country, if I recall correctly.

I presume they would be the best source of memory.
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