I was invited to make this thread by HawkDiesel, who wanted to hear my rants against the Mountain Dwarf and Rock Gnome for Eberron campaigns, so my personal opinion is that several PHB subraces are ill-suited to Eberron and using them without comment or alteration puts across to players new to the setting some incorrect implications.
So, before I start, let me just say, again, this is just my opinion. I am not likely to be swayed from it, so trying to convince me away from my points probably will end in frustration. HOWEVER I invite anyone to share their own opinions, so that anyone reading the thread can see all sides and viewpoints.
SO, if you don't want to see negative thoughts expressed about PHB subraces in Eberron, skip the rest of this first post
Let's start with the basic assumption of what a subrace is. As presented, I think the PHB subraces represent cultural divisions. The High Elves are not "genetically" more magical than Wild Elves, they just don't consider you an adult in their society until you learn at least one cantrip. This means that each subrace is representative of a society. There are other interpretations of what these subraces are, or can mean, in an Eberron game and I'll address those alternate interpretations too, but first I will address subraces "as intended" in the PHB.
As a society, Mountain Dwarves do not exist in Eberron. There is no nation, clan, or society of dwarves in any region of Eberron that is known as being the most competent, well-trained soldiers on the face of the planet. There is no cultural emphasis in any known dwarven culture on training for war above all else beyond all other martial societies (Karrnath, Dhakanni, Dragonborn, etc.). In a generic setting, the Mountain Dwarf gets across the feeling of "dang, these dwarves mean business, and they're the most likely culture to produce the best trained militia and their fighters are the strongest and toughest in the world". In Eberron that distinction goes to House Deneith for the best training, and goddamn warforged for the strongest, toughest soldiers. By including the Mountain Dwarf, with it's +2 Str and Con and +1 HP per level, the sheer design space for warforged is choked up in making them merely equal to Mountain Dwarves in terms of sheer strength and behind in sheer toughness (less HP per level). How can Warforged ever make sense when compared to the Mountain Dwarf?
For the Rock Gnome, the meat and potatoes ability of the subrace, the unique and sole ability amongst all playable races to create clockwork items (which are themselves actually so unsophisticated that they fall apart in a day) just flat-out does not make any sense in the current world of Eberron, in two individual, separate ways:
- First, House Cannith is known throughout Khorvaire to be the best, most talented tinkerers. They RUN the "Tinkerer's Guild". So why can't humans make clockwork devices, and why are the gnomes the only ones who can? The Rock Gnome's ability to do so while humans can't is an insult to the setting, I feel, if left as is.
- Secondly, the "tech"-level of Eberron is far in advance of a generic setting, or should be, and there is no reason why a wind up toy would fall apart in a day. If you assume that non-player characters (ie, society as a whole) have the ability to make permanent clockwork items but amongst player characters ONLY GNOMES have the ability to do so, why are they COMICALLY BAD at creating simple non-magical clockwork devices? This isn't Krynn where tinker gnome inventions have a 50/50 shot of exploding. The Zil gnomes have plenty of competent artificers, such as the elemental binders making airships in concert with House Cannith. So if NPC gnomes are competent tinkerers, why is there an entire society of shitty tinkerer Rock Gnomes? Cause remember, subraces are cultures. There is now, if you use Rock Gnomes in Eberron, a society of amature tinker gnomes who are just terrible at making anything and ALL of their inventions fall apart in a day. Because remember, there is no in-game ability to make clockwork items EXCEPT for this ONE racial ability. It is impossible for you to get any better at it.
Now the alternate interpretation is that subraces are "aptitudes", individual talents that a player character might have but don't necessarily reflect their race. This is how Keith has expressed he'd use PHB subraces in Eberron, and I can understand a desire to at least TRY to reconcile how a large chunk of the PHB could at least be officially used without disrupting the setting. It has the advantage of not disrupting society as a whole.
Except, I still think it sucks, and I'll get into why in a second. But first, I want to emphatically state that I mean no offense nor disrespect to Keith. I assume if any official Eberron material is to be written for Eberron it is going to HAVE TO include the official PHB material. Just like 4e Eberron HAD TO include Baator because "that's just how planes work now", and he did his best to reconcile the shoe-horning in of Baator into Eberron's cosmology in an official capacity.
This is how I view Mountain Dwarves and Rock Gnomes. They are 5e Eberron's Baator. Keith's just doing his best.
Now here's why I think the "aptitude" explanation sucks. If a PCs subrace is an exceptional aptitude, but what they are exceptional for is wildly divergent from their race's culture, or even just intentionally not coming from his race's society, what's point of tying subrace "aptitudes" to a race at all? If a player picking "Mountain Dwarf" just means "really tough fighter" with no meaning in greater dwarven society, why can't Deneith humans pick the "really tough fighter" aptitude? Why can't dragonborn? Why can't half-orcs? Why can't Valenar elves? Why would a gnome character, because of a specific aptitude he picked that has no bearing on gnomes as a whole or his place within gnome society, be the only kind of character that can even possibly select the only aptitude that allows anyone to be the McGuyvery improvised tinker genius? Why couldn't Cannith humans pick the "McGuyvery improvised tinker genius" aptitude?
And, possibly even more importantly, I don't actually believe a new player would even understand the implication of aptitudes not being representative of their race. I don't think a new player playing a Rock Gnome, would understand he is playing an exceptional gnome with the unique and sole talent in all the world to McGuyver ingenious little devices that not even the genius artificers of world renowned House Cannith can replicate. I think a new player is just going to assume "this is what some gnomes are known for." Which is the default PHB view. And then we're back at square one. Because NO, that's NOT what gnomes are known for. That's what HUMANS ARE KNOWN FOR ALMFLKJNGNMLAOL:NHJGB:OLNAFNHLGN
So no, no Mountain Dwarves and no Rock Gnomes in any Eberron game I run. They have no place in Eberron under any interpretation of the rules or setting I can think of.
... Y'all can thank HawkDiesel for that rant.
So, what are your thoughts?