You’re about to launch an Eberron campaign, but there’s one problem: where do you begin? Do you start in the towers of Sharn? Do you dive into the Mournland? Is your campaign driven more by pulp adventure or noir intrigue?
Eberron: Rising from the Last War provides you with a number of tools that can help shape a campaign. Chapter 1 of Rising introduces Group Patrons, which can give a group of adventurers a shared origin and purpose. Are you spies working for one of the Five Nations? Agents of an enigmatic immortal? For games beginning in the city of Sharn, chapter 3 provides an interesting option with the Home Base table, which helps ground the group by giving people a tie to a common location. Are you professional adventurers who share stories and drinks in the Drunken Dragon of Clifftop? Or are you using the rundown Coldflame Keep as a base of operations?
Here are a few starting points for your campaign for you to consider!
Callestan: The Mean Streets of Sharn
You live in one of the most dangerous districts in Sharn. The Watch has abandoned Callestan, and the criminal Boromar Clan is the closest thing to law in this crumbling community. It may be dangerous and squalid, but for you it’s home. Perhaps you’re an orphan who’s never known any other life. Maybe you work for the Boromars. Perhaps you’re a folk hero or an acolyte trying to bring hope to the hopeless. Maybe you’re a fugitive from the law, or you’re pursuing mystical research forbidden by your family or guild.
Callestan is an excellent foundation for a gritty noir campaign. If you use the crime syndicate group patron, you could be working for the Boromar Clan defending your territory from the monstrous gangs of Daask. Or you might be stealing from the rich and powerful of Sharn to help your poor community! As the Sharn Watch avoids Callestan, it’s also a place where any evil could strike. A mind flayer’s cult could be feeding on the fears and brains of the people. The Order of the Emerald Claw could be conducting horrific necromantic experiments on the populace. Whether as an inquisitive agency or just as bold adventurers protecting your home, you could be determined to get to the bottom of these mysteries.
If you’re not using a group patron, it can be useful for the adventurers to establish a shared goal. Are you working together to protect the community? To drive Daask out of Callestan? Do you want to open up a tavern together? Or are you just trying to get enough gold to pay off your debts (consider the Debts table in the introduction of Rising From The Last War) so you can get out of Callestan?
Clifftop: Professional Adventurers
Once you may have been mercenaries, scholars, or soldiers. But the war is over and the world is full of mysteries and opportunities. There are golden temples in the jungles of Xen’drik. There’s a tomb in the Demon Wastes said to hold the sword of Dol Arrah. The lost subterranean realms of the dwarves hold many wonders—if you’re prepared to face the hideous aberrations that have claimed these halls. This is just a taste of the action-packed expeditions awaiting a member of an adventurers’ guild!
Rising from the Last War presents the Adventurers’ Guild as a group patron, and the Clifftop Adventurer’s Guild is one of the most celebrated alliances of adventurers in the city of Sharn. The district of Clifftop is largely devoted to professional adventurers, with a wide range of shops, exotic collectors, and fine taverns where you can share stories with your comrades in arms.
Clifftop is a good option for a group that wants to focus on high adventure and pulp action. Clifftop is the base of operations, but as a professional adventurer you go where the action is—jobs will take you across Khorvaire and beyond it. This does mean you won’t invest as heavily in the local community as you might in Callestan or Hope, but you’ll see the wildest things Eberron has to offer.
Hope: The Shard Rush
You’re on the wild frontier. You’ve got a stake in a mining town in Q’barra, on the very edge of the known world. It’s up to you to make the law in this place, holding it together with courage, steel, and a steady wand. A fortune awaits you in the jungles—along with lizardfolk, unknown monsters, and tombs and monuments raised by demons. Welcome to Hope.
Hope is a lawless region in the jungles of Q’barra. It’s rich in dragonshards, and this has drawn a flood of people hoping to make their fortunes—Cyran refugees, former soldiers, professional miners and more. Have you come here in search of gold, or are you chasing redemption?
Hope provides an opportunity to incorporate the tropes of the Western genre into an Eberron campaign. The people may use wands and crossbows instead of guns, but you’ve got a lawless land with teeming with greedy miners, deadly bandits, and ancient secrets. You could be a wandering group of adventurers or bounty hunters. But if you really want to capture the flavor, consider giving the characters a stake in a particular community. As a paladin—or any character with the soldier background—you might be the town sheriff, doing your best to maintain the law and keep people safe. A cleric, druid, or any acolyte could be the town preacher. As a warlock or sorcerer you might be a dashing wandslinger; but are you a folk hero beloved by the townsfolk, or a charlatan who’s always looking for a way to turn a profit? In such a campaign, you’re responsible for the long term prosperity of the town. That means dealing with bandits and coming to terms with the local lizardfolk… but also learning the story behind the ruins in the region, and dealing with whatever ancient darkness may be stirring in the jungles.
The Last War: Duty and Adventure
One way to begin an Eberron campaign is to step back in time and start your adventures during the Last War. You aren’t just a party of adventurers; you’re a squad of soldiers, and the fate of your nation is in your hands.
The group patrons in Rising from The Last War includes the military unit, and provides ideas about how characters could fill particular roles—the commander, the medic, the scout. You’re a capable squad, and your adventures will be specific missions. While you might find yourself battling enemy soldiers, you could just as easily end up exploring dungeons. A Dhakaani ruin lies in contested territory… has it been claimed by the enemy? And if not, what might lie within? Perhaps you’ll have to work together with enemy forces when you’re both targeted by aberrations that have crawled out of Khyber!
In developing a Last War campaign, a crucial question is which nation you’re serving and which front your own. Are you fighting Karrnathi undead, or serving alongside them? An especially interesting option is to be soldiers serving the nation of Cyre—the kingdom destroyed by the Mourning. Your first few adventures can take place during the war, but then you could jump forward and past the Mourning. Now the kingdom you fought for is a haunted ruin, and your people are scattered across Khorvaire. Will you fight to protect the survivors? Will you help Prince Oargev found a new Cyre—an option suggested in Rising from the Last War as part of the head of state group patron? Or will you simply focus on your own survival?
Starting a campaign during the Last War and then jumping forward in time is also an interesting way to develop recurring allies and villains, or to foreshadow important events. During the war, you might have to deal with the immediate consequences when an explosion breaks the seals on an ancient tomb; but it will be years until you discover what was actually released in that careless moment of violence. The squadmate who saves your life early on may need your help in the future; while the Karrnathi commander whose undead hound your early missions could turn up later leading forces of the Emerald Claw.
The Mournland: Exploring the Madness
Tomorrow, you’re heading into Eston. Four years ago, this was the seat of House Cannith. There’s no telling what arcane treasures are sealed away in its vaults… and no knowing what horrors you’ll face. You’ve heard stories of living spells, of flocks of clockwork birds with razored wings. Tomorrow, you’ll learn the truth of those rumors; hopefully you’ll survive the day.
The Mourning turned the nation of Cyre into a strange and hostile wasteland. Its effects were unpredictable; every expedition beyond the mists discovers new terrors. Sensible people shun this deadly land. But your group charges in where others fear to tread. What is it that draws you to this warped land? If you’re part of an adventurers’ guild, you could be driven purely by profit. Cyre was the wealthiest of the Five Nations, and all of its treasures are there for the taking. If your group is funded by a university, you could be researchers determined to catalogue the effects of the Mourning and ultimately to determine its cause and if it can be reversed. You might be Cyrans serving Prince Oargev, helping to recover the greatest treasures of your nation. Or you could be part of a military unit, sent into the Mournland to secure strategic objectives vital to your nation. Beyond the strange monsters created by the disaster, you may face the warforged followers of the Lords of Blades, amoral salvagers, agents of other nations… or ancient fiends with their own agendas in this ruined land.
The Mourning is a dungeon the size of a nation. It holds untold treasures, but the greatest prize of all is the secret of what caused the disaster. A Mournland campaign could begin with quick expeditions, darting in and leaving before night falls. But in time, you will need to progress deeper and deeper. Can you find a way to heal this wounded land? Or will you uncover a scheme to spread the devastation across Khorvaire?
These are just a few of the possibilities for an Eberron campaign. You could be daring sky pirates challenging the air superiority of House Lyrandar, or a team of elite house agents dealing with deadly threats. You could be spies serving on the front line of the cold war between the Five Nations, or templars of the Silver Flame battling a vast and hidden demonic conspiracy. Whatever you decide, Eberron and adventure await!
This adventure continues in Eberron: Rising from the Last War. Begin your journey by ordering it now in the D&D Beyond Marketplace.
Keith Baker is best known as the creator of the Eberron setting for Dungeons & Dragons and the storytelling card game Gloom. In addition to creating content for Wizards of the Coast, Paizo Publishing, Green Ronin, Atlas Games, and more, he's creating board games and RPGs through his own company Twogether Studios. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Jenn and a demanding fur family. You can find Keith online as @hellcowkeith on Twitter and at keith-baker.com and twogetherstudios.com.