Eberron is a wildly imaginative Dungeons & Dragons setting that can play host to any campaign type you imagine. Seriously, this bad boy can fit so many tropes in it. Political intrigue campaign about nations on the brink of war? The lore's made for it. Action-packed Indiana Jones-style romp through ancient temples full of traps? There’s a whole island for that. Noir mystery set on dimly-lit city streets dominated by a magic gang war? Yup, check out Sharn. And of course, there’s plenty of room for standard shenanigans where players kick butt and get loot. But now on an airship! 

The setting is a personal favorite of mine due to how deep the lore goes and how it can accommodate so many story types. I’ve run several Eberron campaigns–some here on StartPlaying to great reviews–so I know that it can also inspire amazing characters. The one challenge I’ve discovered, however, is that players might not know Eberron well enough to make a character that takes full advantage of what the setting has to offer. I mean, who’s got time to learn a book’s worth of lore? 

By breaking down some key factions, historical events, and just general cool concepts, I'll show you how your character can fit into Eberron.  I'll even suggest some classes so you can see how these backstories might tie into that build you’ve been considering. As an Eberron fan, I guarantee that these will help you create a unique character that your DM will thank you for. Hopefully that means more plot (and maybe a personalized magic item) for you! 

Dragonmarked Heir

via: D&D Beyond

Here's an easy one, and it gives you a reason to use one of the Eberron-specific power boosts. A Dragonmark is like a magical birthmark that manifests on certain members of a bloodline. From a game standpoint, they modify your race choice by adding to your spell list and boosting associated ability checks. From a roleplay standpoint, your character hails from a Dragonmarked house. The 12 houses each monopolize an industry with their innate magic, becoming a sort of magic megacorp. 

This gives you some interesting backstory choices to make: are you a proud member of your house, or a black sheep that yearns to break free? You could put a cyberpunk corpo spin on it by being in debt to the house or working from the inside to take the insidious operation down. You could also team up with other players to all represent one house, giving your DM a group patron with lots of story potential. 

Veteran Of The Last War

The Last War was a continent-consuming conflict that started with one nation’s contest over the next heir to the throne. It only ended when a giant magical explosion engulfed the inciting nation, turning it into a wild magic wasteland. Many Eberron campaigns start shortly after the peace treaties were hastily signed in response to the explosion. The suddenness of the ceasefire leaves you with a great character hook: what happens to the soldiers who are suddenly out of a job? 

This question is especially pertinent if you play as a warforged, people literally built for war. Do you only know how to seek the next fight? Or are you a begrudging mercenary looking to earn enough to buy a quiet life? This could also apply to fighters, rogues, and artificers. Perhaps an old war buddy comes to cash in a life debt. Whatever happens, make it so you can’t leave the war behind so easily. 

The War Never Ended

Linking up with the above backstory, some say the war didn’t truly end. Instead it’s now a cold war, with various nations and factions looking for the cause of the magic explosion. Was it a supernatural fluke, or an attempt at a devastating new weapon? On paper there’s a ceasefire, but in the shadows you’re a special agent tasked with finding the answer. Here’s a good backstory for your rogues and monks. A druid secret agent would also be a cool surprise pick. Work with your DM to select a nation, or even a dragonmarked house, to act as your secret boss. 

Picking Up The Pieces 

via: D&D Beyond

A postwar world needs healers badly, and your cleric/paladin/druid/artificer could be the answer. You might have been on the front lines. You’ve seen the horrors of war, even taken some lives, and now you want to make it right. Or perhaps you were removed from the war at a remote temple. Now, your temple is sending you as a missionary to war-torn lands: through your healing hands, word of your faith will spread. You could be from the Silver Flame, Path of Light, or the Sovereign Host. This is a good backstory to play a more lighthearted character to balance out the more serious party members. 

Mysterious Force Of The Mournland

The event where magic exploded, ending a nation and inspiring the end of the war, was called the Day of Mourning. The land left in the wake is now called the Mournland. It’s a twisted, deadly place: animals mutated into horrid monsters, ghost trains continue their route on destroyed track, and it’s all contained within a mist wall of screaming faces. But what if you survived? You walked out of the mist one day with the powers of a sorcerer or warlock, but with no memory of what happened on the Day of Mourning. Cue some DM fun. 

Legend Seeker 

As a world with more modern elements, Eberron has several universities that send out adventurers to far-off islands full of ancient ruins. This gives you the chance to give your character some Indiana Jones flavor. Your martial character could be a hired explorer. Your wizard or bard could be a professor motivated by cataloging and preserving history. Morgrave University is the perfect home for a city-based spellcaster who ventures out to find secrets. If your DM agrees, it could also be a place to rest, buy spell scrolls, and use downtime in between adventures. 

Bounty Hunter With A Mark 

via: D&D Beyond

Orcish bounty hunters stalk the frontier lands looking for a mark, while hard-nosed detectives prowl big city streets looking for answers in shadowy corners. Eberron is a setting of secrets, crime, and gray morality that lends itself well to such characters. One of the magically-enhanced Dragonmark houses boasts the Mark of Finding, which gives you many location and communication spells. Obviously rogues and rangers fit here. However, there’s also a subset of spellcasters called wandslingers who quick draw from a holster. It’s a cool way to spin the typical Warlock with eldritch blast.

Talenta Dinosaur Tamer

Here’s one for the barbarian and nature fans: the Talenta Plains are a huge swath of grasslands dominated by dinosaurs and halflings that tame them. That’s right, you could be a dino riding halfling ranger. Or a druid that turns into dinosaurs. The halflings are also well known for their barbarian warrior tribes. Their motivations are typically simple: protect their tribe and keep outsiders from meddling in their ancient traditions. If you’re not big on roleplaying intrigue and just want to hit things, a Talenta halfling is the way to go.

Strictly Business

The interesting thing about Eberron’s magic is that it is everywhere. Trains run on elemental power, chefs use cantrips to heat their food, and sending is used like the early telephone. Magic is business here, and that gives you many options for a backstory with humble beginnings. You could begin as security for the banking house, a mechanic for an airship, or a performer who doesn’t realize they’re part of the secret elven assassin’s guild. D&D is great for playing the zero-to-hero fantasy, and Eberron’s world offers many mundane jobs that can lead into a world of adventure. 

Concerned With The Big Picture

Above all of the war, political maneuvering, crime syndicates, corporate espionage, and business is the Draconic Prophecy. This collection of verses scattered throughout the world act as the words of a Greek oracle: important to the future, but able to be interpreted in so many wrong ways. Nevertheless, many powerful organizations seek to collect the fragments of the prophecy and use them for their own gain. Your divination spellcaster could seek to wield fate, or prevent a rival from getting that power. You could have been raised in a cult that sent you out to collect a piece of the prophecy. 

Connected to the Draconic Prophecy is the land of Argonnessen, home to Eberron’s dragons. The dragons stay in seclusion, and some theories say they pull strings that manipulate the course of nations. If you want to be a co-conspirator with your DM, your character could have a secret agenda passed to them from Argonnessen. A Dragonborn character could also come from this background. They could be a barbarian protector of the ancient dragons, or a fish out of water who washed ashore on the main continent and has many questions. 

Mar 15, 2024
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