And Now For Something Not Really That Different (Eberron)

So with the excellent Tomb of Annihilation complete it is time to move on to new territory.  Gods know I’m done giving my thoroughly uninformed opinion about Adventurer’s League rules.  No, where I found my mind wandering today was Eberron.  Specifically Eberron PCs.  Now odds are I will wind up DMing all the Eberron I can get my hands on.  This season of a la carte adventures is gonna bankrupt my ass.  Still one can’t help but think what one might want to play if one gets on the other side of the screen.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I tend to gravitate towards a specific character concept based on the game I’m joining.  I found a place for my beloved AL character Tando in the Forgotten Realms AL system.  I thought of the books that come out every six months with the world repeatedly almost being destroyed must fray the goddamn nerves of the poor civil servants who collect the taxes and hire adventurers to keep their homes safe.  But Tando wouldn’t work in an Eberron game.  The last war, the place of halflings in that world, it just doesn’t sing to me in a way that makes me want to play that character.

I mentioned in an older post from over a year ago I said I wanted to make a Gnome Journalist PC.  The mechanical elements of the character were described on Total Party Thrill’s “Natural Disasters” episode.  Their character creation forge that episode described a “war correspondent.”  This is PC who is also a writer for the Korranberg Chronicle, Khorvaire’s finest news source.  The reason I want to play this character mirrors the reason I play Tando.  Tando is surrounded and mystified by the gamey elements of the 5E FR.  The rapid and bizarre changes in the world every season are in fact an element of the inscrutable gods.  He is by nature a supporting character, here to bear witness to the earth shaking changes he cannot prevent, slow, or reverse.

The journalist is the same idea but more literal.  He journeys with the party chronicling their legends for the broadsheets.  I see him as a Hunter S. Thompson figure, engaging in pure gonzo journalism.  He’s seeing the adventurer’s life from the front lines, just like he probably reported on the final years of the Last War.

Mechanically, the build is very much spoken if I follow the suggestions of Total Party Thrill.  This character is a Swashbuckler/Conjurer.  I grappled with where precisely to put the intelligence score because this is very much a Dexterity/Charisma build.  The Sneak Attack provides the offensive punch, Charisma Powers Panache, and the character largely eschews inflicting saving throws in favor of shields, teleports, and other sorts of tricks.

Focusing on weapon damage makes pumping that Dex up to 20 important, but the concept asks for two feats, “Keen Mind” and “Svirfneblin Magic.”  Smurf Magic gives you Blur once per day and Nondetection at-will.  Keen Mind (in addition to the +1 Int) allows you to recall with perfect accuracy anything you’ve seen or heard in the last month.  A great ability for someone say like, a Conjurer with the ability to create perfect recreations of anything they’ve seen.

If those seem like awfully suspicious abilities for a journalist you would be correct.  Because he isn’t just a journalist no, he also makes a dandy spy which he totally would be for The Trust.  Now I have to briefly explain The Trust.  In case you are just joining us, Zilargo is the “Gnome Land” of Eberron.  While it has a government, an organization called The Trust features prominently in the text about Zilargo. The Trust is, for lack of better terms, The Gnome Secret Police.  Now after you stop laughing, a better analog would the a benevolent version of The NSA.  They use magic to spy on everyone to ferret out their secrets and schemes but they really do act in the best interest of the nation.  So far there hasn’t been a “The Trust is Evil” adventure although you could totally write them like that.  For my character not that I thought, mwhaha he should be a secret Trust person, no it is more that The Trust would recruit someone like this.  He’s immune to scrying and has a perfect memory, he’s basically a walking wiretap.  Really more Colonel Hunter Gathers than Dr. Hunter Thompson.  I’m fine with this.

The Trust as it relates to a party of adventurers would be: The PCs cross the border into Zilargo, legally or not.  The border agents immediately alert The Trust that, a group of five heavily armed foreigners just crossed into Zilargo.  The party now has eyes on them.  The DM should be rolling for divination magic and scrying.  When the party stops for the night, the extremely friendly innkeeper directs them to the best room in the inn which is being magically surveilled.  Everyone will keep asking their business, again very friendly.  And as long as the PCs are not out to harm Zilargo they can expect warm welcomes and great hospitality.  But the Trust knows what they’re doing and is weighing, is this a threat?

For a Background, I chose the “Detective” background from the excellent “Rats of Waterdeep” adventure on the DM’s Guild.  This allows you uncover hidden information about someone by talking to them for ten minutes in the style of Sherlock Holmes.  I decided to go with the forgery kit and a language instead of two languages.  For those languages, in addition to common and Gnomish, I added Dwarven.  There are close ties between the gnome and dwarf Dragonmarked Houses, Sivis and Kundarak, so this seems like a good idea.  A Deep Gnome also gets Undercommon but Eberron doesn’t really have a civilized Underdark in the fashion of the Forgotten Realms.  I wanted Undercommon on my rogue Tando so he could visit Underdark cities like Gracklestugh, Blingdenstone, and trade outposts.  There isn’t really anywhere to go with it on Eberron.  The Drow are on another continent and they don’t have much in the way of named cities.

Eberron does have a variant rule for languages where with the DM’s permission you can swap out your languages.  The reason for this is that in Eberron it makes perfect sense that a Dwarf from Sharn, which is about as far away from the Dwarf lands in Eberron as possible, would not speak Dwarven.  If you asked that Dwarf why, they would stare at you and say, “My Grandfather spoke Dwarven but we immigrated to Breland 500 years ago.  Why would I speak Dwarven?”  How many people do you know who don’t speak German, Irish, Chinese, what have you.  So I think I would swap out Undercommon for Goblin which just makes more sense for Zilargo and Eberron.  I might wind up doing Draconic instead since Zilargo is full of Kobolds, I think I might ask the DM if one language would be less useless than the other in a home game.

I’ve had this character in mind for a while now but one thing I hadn’t considered is what the new AL changes are going to do to the Wizard Class’s ability to copy spells into their spellbook.  A PC can expect to find 1200 gp from levels 1-10.  Just looking over my spell wishlist I can see that between 1st-2nd level spells I would like to spend about 1900 gp on new spells.  Now you get 2 per level free, but that is a real kick in the pants to Wizards specifically.  The Class’s primary strength is its versatility, to overcome challenges through preparation.  I think AL will have to compromise let Wizards spend their “treasure points” on copying new spells into their spellbooks and also creating backup spellbooks otherwise people are going to cheat on this. I guarantee you no DM is going have time to scrutinize the wizard’s spellbook to make sure each of those first level spells are paid up.

For skills they’re very similar to what I had on Tando, Investigation, Perception, Insight, Persuasion, Stealth.  Where I differ here is Deception vs. Sleight of Hand.  I’m conflicted.  In the Meta of 5E, Sleight of Hand does not come up often.  Deception can.  I think where I come down is that just as Tando is not the sort of Thief who needs Acrobatics, my Journalist is not the kind of spy that needs Deception.  He observes and occasionally lifts documents from someone, but perhaps Deception is a blind spot.

For a name I bounced around a few different choices but I think I’ve settled on Keller Sil Zoltan.  I was playing with a few different options but I like the “er” “il” “an” endings I just wasn’t sure what order to do.  Then I remembered Zoltan the magic fortune thingy from the movie Big and that settled it.  Maybe I will go with Kellen instead because I’m not sure I like how similar it sounds to “killer” which is too aggressive for an amiable fellow like this.  Kellen Sil Zoltar sounds a bit better to my ears.

Tune in next time as I consider what character to bring to Dragon Heist/Mountain of the Mad Mage.  I had originally wanted to use the Triton Barbarian, but the group has suggested making characters who know each other.  We have a couple new players so I’m again thinking of a supporting role like a bard or cleric so they can shine a little brighter.  Aasimar Bard or Cleric is where I lean right now.