Dragonborn in Eberron

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Tim Baker
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Dragonborn in Eberron

Post by Tim Baker »

In response to a statement that information about dragonborn in Eberron is scarce, I thought I'd start a new thread to discuss it.

I found this thread from 2016, which includes comments from Keith Baker on how he views dragonborn in Eberron.

What have we seen since then? With Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron, Eberron: Rising from the Last War, and now Keith Baker's Exploring Eberron (which I understand not to be official canon, since it isn't a WotC book), have the 5th Edition products shed any light on dragonborn in the setting?

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Re: Dragonborn in Eberron

Post by Zeromaru X »

There is more info about dragonborn in 4e sources, than in 5e sources. The Wayfinder's Guide and RftLW have just a paragraph or two on the dragonborn. Heck, IIRC, RftLW has a very abridged version of the one from Wayfinder's, and that one was really small.

No surprises there, tho. 5e seems to hate dragonborn...

As for other sources, I guess there is a novel named Dragon Forge that deals with the dragonborn of Argonessen. Guess I'll have to check it, but I really doubt it has much info.

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Re: Dragonborn in Eberron

Post by Tim Baker »

Zeromaru X wrote:
Sun Aug 02, 2020 12:29 am
No surprises there, tho. 5e seems to hate dragonborn...
Why do you say that? I have to admit, I'm only somewhat plugged into 5e products. I steal ideas for my 13th Age games, and I'm a player in a campaign, and I listen to some podcasts. So I hadn't noticed any disdain toward dragonborn, but I also haven't seen them appear all that often, come to think of it.

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Re: Dragonborn in Eberron

Post by Beoric »

There is quite a bit about dragonborn in Dungeon 182 & 185.

Also Keith's website:
http://keith-baker.com/tag/dragonborn/
http://keith-baker.com/tag/qbarra/

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Re: Dragonborn in Eberron

Post by Zeromaru X »

Actually, there is only info about the dragonborn in Dungeon 185. The article in 182 is about humans in Q'barra. And the links to Keith's blog are more about the lizardfolk than about dragonborn...
Tim Baker wrote:
Sun Aug 02, 2020 2:00 am
Why do you say that? I have to admit, I'm only somewhat plugged into 5e products. I steal ideas for my 13th Age games, and I'm a player in a campaign, and I listen to some podcasts. So I hadn't noticed any disdain toward dragonborn, but I also haven't seen them appear all that often, come to think of it.


Mechanically, dragonborn are the weakest of the core ancestries, and among the weakest of all the playable ancestries in all the edition. Lorewise, the SCAG only has a page or two about them, and Eberron has a small paragraph in Wayfinder's that is even smaller in the official book. They are excluded in most Magic the Gathering sources, and the Greyhawk-centric adventure says is ok to kill your players' PCs if they are dragonborn (a really good advice for DMs --sarcasm--).

There is little to no support for them in the player's focused sourcebooks, unlike tieflings (who have a whole section in Mordenkainen's) and elves (the game should be called Dungeons and Elves, at this point), and the list of clan names in Xanathar's is a joke...

So, as you can see, they got the short end of the stick in this edition.

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Re: Dragonborn in Eberron

Post by KtA »

Well, both Eberron and FR were originally created for editions where dragonborn didn't exist as a core PC race; they only became core in 4E (even Eberron, a relatively recent setting compared to most, was 3E-era).
Zeromaru X wrote:
Sun Aug 02, 2020 7:15 am
and the Greyhawk-centric adventure says is ok to kill your players' PCs if they are dragonborn (a really good advice for DMs --sarcasm--).
If you're talking about Ghosts of Saltmarsh, I don't think it says that... I believe it says that dragonborn and tieflings might be feared. Not that people will randomly kill them, and certainly not that DMs should.

And frankly, Dragonborn just don't fit in Greyhawk; I think it would have been better to say "By default, Dragonborn don't exist on Oerth. If your group wants to include them in your game, you'll need to think about how they fit into the world."

They fit fairly well in Eberron, but their place there is as exotic outsiders, so yeah they're not going to be that central, basically by definition.

I really don't think it was a good idea to put Dragonborn in the PHB in 5E; having them as "default" options creates a feel that doesn't fit the more "standard" D&D worlds like FR/Greyhawk/Known World very well. (They could be made to fit pretty well into the more gonzo later Mystara, Princess Ark era stuff, but not the earlier Known World.)

EDIT: fixed quote

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Re: Dragonborn in Eberron

Post by Zeromaru X »

KtA wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:30 am
I really don't think it was a good idea to put Dragonborn in the PHB in 5E; having them as "default" options creates a feel that doesn't fit the more "standard" D&D worlds like FR/Greyhawk/Known World very well. (They could be made to fit pretty well into the more gonzo later Mystara, Princess Ark era stuff, but not the earlier Known World.)
They fit perfectly well, in fact. It's good to have alternatives beyond Tolkien in D&D. This is not 1980 anymore. And they are "uncommon", so people who only wants to replay the Lord of the Rings feel can ignore them if they want.

I do agree that they need to be given lore to fit in the preexisting settings. That's it's why this topic was created, to begin with. To search for lore about them in Eberron.

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Re: Dragonborn in Eberron

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Tim Baker wrote:
Sat Aug 01, 2020 11:50 pm
In response to a statement that information about dragonborn in Eberron is scarce, I thought I'd start a new thread to discuss it.
That kind of makes sense, considering the major bulk of Eberron material was written for the 3rd Edition Era, before dragonborn existed (from an out of character point of view).

This is one of the challenges of introducing "cool new ideas™" into D&D, whether those ideas are a new core playable race (like the dragonborn) or some sort of new background theme (like Magic of Incarnum or Ghostwalk). It's all well and good to throw down your new idea, but you leave players with very little to work on (except a sidebar with a few paragraphs of ideas) and you leave GMs with no ideas on how to take one small but great idea and weave it into canon that outnumbers that idea on a 1000 to 1 ratio.

That's not to say that nobody should ever add in new ideas, but you have to recognise this challenge and take steps to deal with it.

(Maybe someone will eventually write a netbook about Dragonborn in Eberron...or more likely go down the route of publishing something on DMs Guild.)

From an out of character point of view, I think you have three ways to deal with this sort of thing:
  1. Build a new campaign setting, where this is just "normal": Nentir Vale does this and it works because the Dragonborn have an equal amount of out-of-character (and in-character) history to all the other races. But that's obviously not an option for Eberron or any other pre-4e world,
  2. Reboot the setting, to say that the new thing has always been there: This seems to work for Planetouched races, in most of the D&D worlds that fit into the Planescape cosmology. Eberron doesn't fit into the Planescape cosmology, because of it's relationship to deities, but all of the existing 3e and earlier monsters got an Eberron reboot, so the setting has a major theme of rebooting D&D to "Eberronise" D&D themes.
  3. Create some sort of "arrival event" that introduces the new thing. That's the way that Forgotten Realms went, as they had the dragonborn arrive, when another world, called Abeir, mixed with the existing FR world, called Toril. It's a valid way to go, but major world-changing events do upset fans who are invested in bits of the world that designers casually toss out of the window. And it also causes logistical problems for people who want to use earlier eras. (For example, the Spellplague plot does nothing to help me introduce dragonborn into a 2nd Edition Era Realmspace campaign, as they are officially something that got banished to Abeir by Lord Ao.) Eberron has had the Last War, where one of the major Five Nations, called Cyre, was blasted out of existence by something that the major NPCs don't understand. It also has an entire moon (the 13th moon) that got sent away and a dragonmark that was destroyed by the other Dragonmarked Houses. So it could be possible to have an arrival event for Dragonborn with 4th Edition Eberron material.
Personally, I'd rather go for something more subtle and neither retcon the entire canon of a campaign setting (because it feels jarring to me) nor come up with an arrival event that is so "big" that every sage in the world knows about it (because that ties the new thing to a specific real-world date).

You have entire other continents on Eberron, and it would be easy to say that the dragonborn have always been there (or have been there for a significant amount of time) but were not interested in colonising Khorvaire. That way, if 4e Eberron material mentions dragonborn, you can say that is an era where they have become established enough to be notable...rather than have it as a hard line in the Eberron timeline that would then nerf the idea of using dragonborn in a campaign where the players jump back before the Last War to visit Cyre.

But, if someone really wanted to go with the sudden appearance of dragonborn, across the world, I would suggest tying it into Dragonmarks. There is supposed to be some sort of rule against people in Dragonmarked Houses having kids with people who have other Dragonmarks. Maybe mixed Dragonmark kids turn into dragonborn (making them "dragonmark-born" as an Eberron reboot).

Or maybe you could go with a sudden appearance that ties into the Eberron dislike of lycanthropes and the Aberrant Dragonmarks and have the light of one of Eberrons moons shine onto Shifters with Aberrant Dragonmarks and cause them to transform entire groups of people around them, into "dragonmark-born" people.

The first arrival event could lead to the Dragonmarked Houses seeing dragonborn as evidence that they were right to ban house-to-house marriages. And would give you dragonborn that were dragonborn all their lives. The second arrival event could lead to even more suspicious that Aberrant Dragonmarks are dangerous. But that would give you dragonborn that had memories of being another race.

You would have to be careful with either of these ideas, because they would both need to be "sold" to the players as believable, to not come across as cheesy. And I probably wouldn't go down that route, for any game I was running, as it would rob the dragonborn of any cultural heritage. You would have to toss all of that out and use the background options for a secondary (pre-apperance) race. But that might appeal to someone who likes dragonborn and who has tried all the ideas from Nentir Vale and Forgotten Realms, and is looking for a challange.
Tim Baker wrote:
Sat Aug 01, 2020 11:50 pm
I found this thread from 2016, which includes comments from Keith Baker on how he views dragonborn in Eberron.

What have we seen since then? With Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron, Eberron: Rising from the Last War, and now Keith Baker's Exploring Eberron (which I understand not to be official canon, since it isn't a WotC book), have the 5th Edition products shed any light on dragonborn in the setting?
The Dragonborn article on Eberron Wiki has information, with seven sources being citated to back up facts presented in the article. That might not be enough citations for all the facts, and they have not given page citations for some of the things in books, so you would have to do a bit of hunting. But, I think you could work through that article, fact-by-fact, go back to the canon, and see if the canon backs up those claims. Then you could take a look to see if anything that does not have a citation is covered by the next citation that is one or more sentences later.

I think that would be the best way to leapfrog off of the previous research by Eberron Wiki editors and still dig into Dragonborn to draw your own conclusions about how they work.
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Re: Dragonborn in Eberron

Post by Big Mac »

Tim Baker wrote:
Sun Aug 02, 2020 2:00 am
Zeromaru X wrote:
Sun Aug 02, 2020 12:29 am
No surprises there, tho. 5e seems to hate dragonborn...
Why do you say that? I have to admit, I'm only somewhat plugged into 5e products. I steal ideas for my 13th Age games, and I'm a player in a campaign, and I listen to some podcasts. So I hadn't noticed any disdain toward dragonborn, but I also haven't seen them appear all that often, come to think of it.
I'm with Tim here. I don't play 5th Edition D&D or 4th Edition D&D, but I think you are drawing conclusions from the absence of inforamation here.

I'm a Spelljammer fan and have yet to find any crossover material mentioning Spelljammer in association with Birthright, Council of Wyrmms, Ghostwalk, Eberron or Nentir Vale (or with various other smaller campaign settings like Jakandor, Tale of the Comet or Mahasarpa). But I can't say that those settings "hate Spelljammer" based on a lack of support.

I do know that there was a backlash against the Spellplague plot in Forgotten Realms. I think that Nentir Vale got pulled too soon, and that was the setting that showcased the dragonborn race the best. It might be true that the 5th Edition designers have put a lot of emphasis on reaching out to fans of earlier editions of D&D.

But, at the end of the day 5th Edition, like every other edition of D&D, is just a bunch of mathematical equations passed off as a game.

The 5e design team have such a slow development cycle (compared to earlier editions of D&D) that they are not really churning out a lot of content (either radical and innovative content similar to the dragonborn race or traditional content required to underpin classic D&D campaign settings like psionics).

So, I think that you are looking at Schrödinger's dragonborn here, and can only say that it's not liked by 5th Edition, after 5e ends. ;)
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Re: Dragonborn in Eberron

Post by Big Mac »

Zeromaru X wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 2:14 am
KtA wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:30 am
I really don't think it was a good idea to put Dragonborn in the PHB in 5E; having them as "default" options creates a feel that doesn't fit the more "standard" D&D worlds like FR/Greyhawk/Known World very well. (They could be made to fit pretty well into the more gonzo later Mystara, Princess Ark era stuff, but not the earlier Known World.)
They fit perfectly well, in fact. It's good to have alternatives beyond Tolkien in D&D. This is not 1980 anymore. And they are "uncommon", so people who only wants to replay the Lord of the Rings feel can ignore them if they want.

I do agree that they need to be given lore to fit in the preexisting settings. That's it's why this topic was created, to begin with. To search for lore about them in Eberron.
I think that KtA has a valid point that shouldn't just be handwaved away as "Tolkien in D&D"*. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer was published in this century - not the 1980s. And most of the core 3rd Edition D&D books had background tie-ins with Greyhawk. There was no support for dragonborn existing in Greyhawk, right up to 2008.

* = Of the settings published in the 1980s (Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Mystara, Ravenloft, Pelinore, Dragonlance, Kara-Tur and Spelljammer) I think you can only really argue that Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Mystara and Dragonlance bear any resemblance to Middle-earth. With Nentir Vale sharing themes used in Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Mystara and Dragonlance, people could just as easily write it off as a Tolkien-like setting.

Then, when we got to 2008, the 4th Edition design team decided to drop Greyhawk as a core setting and spent a lot of time and effort building the background into Nentir Vale. So there are strong themes across the 4e product line that support players and GMs that want to use dragonborn. But 4th Edition failed to support most of the campaign settings of D&D (and therefore failed to create a way for GMs to use dragonborn with those settings).

The only examples that we have of 4th Edition themes being added to pre-4e settings are:
  • Forgotten Realms - Which got a ton of nerd rage (not specifically about dragonborn),
  • Eberron and
  • Dark Sun
I had no knowledge that dragonborn had been added to Eberron, before reading this topic (as I've only bought 3e Eberron books) and I still have no clue if there are dragonborn in Dark Sun. (I don't know if there is a Dragonborn in Dark Sun topic.)

But it doesn't make sense to just randomly add new things to campaign settings. Especially if they are not going to get any support, other than a "TA-DA - this is here now" sidebar.

I think that's why the innovative ideas, that designers periodically add to D&D, mostly get dropped by later designers.

I can't personally think of a good place to put dragonborn in Greyhawk, but they might fit better in the Sundered Empire subsetting, as you have a bunch of elves there, who have worked with dragons, and dragon-related creatures to fight against an invasion from the planes. But that's probably best discussed in a Dragonborn in Greyhawk or Dragonborn in the Sundered Empire topic. ;)
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Re: Dragonborn in Eberron

Post by Zeromaru X »

Big Mac wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:24 pm
The 5e design team have such a slow development cycle (compared to earlier editions of D&D) that they are not really churning out a lot of content (either radical and innovative content similar to the dragonborn race or traditional content required to underpin classic D&D campaign settings like psionics).
I wonder if you would say that after looking at all the material about elves 5e has...
Big Mac wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:58 pm
I think that KtA has a valid point that shouldn't just be handwaved away as "Tolkien in D&D"*. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer was published in this century - not the 1980s. And most of the core 3rd Edition D&D books had background tie-ins with Greyhawk. There was no support for dragonborn existing in Greyhawk, right up to 2008.
Well, you cannot deny that all (or nearly all) of the old settings feel like reading Lord of the Rings mixed with real world history. I don't know if this is what their authors intended or if is how the settings have evolved through the years thanks to the interaction with fans. Personally, I don't like that kind of settings. I prefer the ones that break from the Tolkienian mold -- like Eberron, for instance. I may have never DMed an Eberron game, but my homebrew version of the Nentir Vale borrows heavily from it.

I may have sounded harsh, though, so I apologize for that.

And yeah, I know that old stuff don't has new stuff included. That's why the new editions should provide ways for including the new stuff into the old. That's why the concept of retcon exist. :lol:
Big Mac wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:58 pm
I had no knowledge that dragonborn had been added to Eberron, before reading this topic (as I've only bought 3e Eberron books) and I still have no clue if there are dragonborn in Dark Sun. (I don't know if there is a Dragonborn in Dark Sun topic.)
Yeah, they are in Dark Sun. They are just re-skinned Dray, tho.
Big Mac wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:58 pm
I can't personally think of a good place to put dragonborn in Greyhawk, but they might fit better in the Sundered Empire subsetting, as you have a bunch of elves there, who have worked with dragons, and dragon-related creatures to fight against an invasion from the planes. But that's probably best discussed in a Dragonborn in Greyhawk or Dragonborn in the Sundered Empire topic. ;)
We should create a topic about it, though I fear the reactions of the old guard fans. :lol:

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Re: Dragonborn in Eberron

Post by KtA »

Zeromaru X wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 2:14 am
They fit perfectly well, in fact.
It's not quite as simple as just adding lore -- having dragonborn as more-or-less recognized members of civilization IMO rather drastically changes the feel of someplace like Greyhawk or the (pre-Princess Ark) Known World.
It's good to have alternatives beyond Tolkien in D&D.
Oh, absolutely. And for some settings Dragonborn work great. I don't object to Dragonborn in general; I do kind of object to them being an assumed default in every setting.

But it's not just a Tolkien thing... Dragonborn and other radically nonhuman PC types don't fit a sword & sorcery feel very well either (except Dark Sun, which is sort of a mix of sword & sorcery with post-apocalyptic mutants, just with magic in place of radiation).
Zeromaru X wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 4:46 pm
I wonder if you would say that after looking at all the material about elves 5e has...
I don't think there's really that much, compared to previous editions. Elves have always gotten a lot of material, since they're popular; but other editions have had several whole books on elves.
Well, you cannot deny that all (or nearly all) of the old settings feel like reading Lord of the Rings mixed with real world history. I don't know if this is what their authors intended or if is how the settings have evolved through the years thanks to the interaction with fans.
It's some of both. The original D&D creators, Gygax & Arneson, were largely Sword & Sorcery inspired; but Tolkien was very dominant in the fantasy landscape in the early 70s so LOTR had a huge influence on the first generation of worlds.

But there's a difference IMO between just including Tolkien-inspired versions of elves, dwarves, etc. and the overall feel of the setting. Early Greyhawk, Blackmoor, etc. have a grittier sword & sorcery type feel even though there are Tolkien elves.
That's why the concept of retcon exist. :lol:
The thing is, though, one of the things I really like about Greyhawk (in its earlier published material, which is what I focus on) is that it's a grittier more "low fantasy" setting, where civilization is barely hanging on, where in the bastions of civilization that do exist justice is often brutal yet crime is powerful, where people and societies act more like actual pre-industrial ones.

That sort of setup, to me, makes a lot more room for adventure than a more cosmopolitan civilized setting.

Once you retcon Greyhawk to be more cosmopolitan, IMO you lose the largest thing that distinguishes it from the Forgotten Realms.
Yeah, they are in Dark Sun. They are just re-skinned Dray, tho.
Yeah. That actually works, because Dark Sun is full of weird mutants. Dragonborn are less weird than Thri-Kreen after all.

They work fine in Eberron, too, but I think they really do work best as exotic outsiders from Q'barra. Not as traditional (pre-Day of Mourning) inhabitants of the Five Nations.

It's in the settings where even elves and dwarves are considered relatively strange and, except for adventurers, usually stay separate from humanity (like early Greyhawk and the Known World) that it's a radical change to the feel.

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