Resolving Map and Timeline Issues.   Posted by Chronicler.Group: 0
 GM, 103 posts
Tue 21 Jan 2020
at 13:31
Resolving Map and Timeline Issues

So the map above was prepared by Reddit user WhatGravitas (source) and is shamelessly stolen from them for the purposes of this game. I've been meaning to add it for some time and wanted a solution more elegant than the extreme "reduce everything by a factor of 10" or the less extreme "reduce everything by a third", and making it so Thrane has a purpose and the continent actually flows are important parts of making the world more livable.

Changes to the continent they made are presented in their own words below:

  • Turning the Scions Sound into a proper inland sea, analogous to the Baltic Sea. This allows me to run some more naval adventures while adding some spice to the history of the Five Nation, all while preserving most canon material (travel paths, historic relations and so on)
  • Reducing the map scale closer to what Keith intended (c. 1/3 of the 3.5E map), allowing for shorter, faster travel, while still keeping it close enough to the official material. My map is about half of the 3.5E scale or about 70% of the 4E/5E scale.
  • Adding more detail to account for the denser scale and making use of (public) places named in supplemental material. One change is the addition of more water features, since these are traditionally defining a lot of geography. Secret places, such as the Venomous Desmesne or Cannith-12 have been left out on purpose.
[ information omitted by Chronicler ]
  • Scions Sea as Baltic Sea analogue: My old version had the Scions Sea as the sea between two subcontinents. The new version (to accommodate for the next two changes) turns this into a mediterranean similar to the Baltic Sea, i.e. a former lake that turned into a sea due to post-ice age sea rises. This also means the Scions Sea is a brackish sea with lower salinity and hence unique marine life.
  • Redesign of the Cyre/Mournland: This takes into account the political and strategic position of Cyre. The revised version makes it strategically very important again, due to its much closer borders with Thrane and Karrnath as well as the Grand Canal added.
  • Thrane Restored: Thrane's configuration (and Thaliost) is much closer to the original map now. However, it is now one of the powers controlling the Scions Sea - this explains its small size (pre-war) compared to the other nations and also goes a long way to explain the Thrane-Karrnath rivalry - the sacking of Shadukar was now a major blow to Thrane's naval dominance. This also means the Mournland looms over Thrane's sphere of influence as well.
  • Redesign of Karrnath: Karrnath was reshuffled to incorporate the new sea and Mournland borders better, this also includes moving settlements around while keeping the overall Lightning Rail layout/order the same. The new gulf (with lots of bays, think almost nordic fjörds) means Karrnath is the only real rival for Thrane's naval power in the Scions Sea, fuelling their rivalry and explaining Karrnath's relationship with the Lhazaar. Side effect of the new gulf is that I renamed the Karrn Bay to White Bay to keep the Karrn name for the Karrn Gulf.
  • Cliffs and Hills: This version now incorporates cliffs and hills, mostly based on the 3.5E map, adjusted to account for the new additions made by me. One key addition is the new Scions Sound: Stormhome is now surrounded by many dangerous cliffs, making it a true challenge to navigate for any non-Lyrandar sailor
  • Raiding the Five Nations: The book, that is. Added most of the minor settlements from the 3.5E Five Nations book and used the detail maps to name some of the new geographic features, such as the Silln Highlands in Breland or the Rhone Mountains in Thrane.
  • Larger settlements: Some towns on the 4E map have been upgraded to "city" status, namely Graywall in Drooam, Pylas Maradal in Valenar, Regalport in the Lhazaar Principalities, Varna in the Eldeen Reaches and Wyvernskull in Darguun. These are all described as cities in Rising from the Last War (as opposed to towns), so I adjusted them accordingly. This also has the nice side-effect that most of the nations now have urban areas outside the capitals - not only does that go towards increasing the population density (sorely needed) but it also means there's room for intrigue, political tension within a nation and urban adventures while still having plenty of frontier areas.
  • New Water Features: Due to the smaller scale of the map, that requires denser geographical features (it's a more zoomed-in view). As a result, I added a lot of minor rivers as well as a few more wetlands, e.g. Mistmarsh in Breland now actually borders a marsh.
  • Lightning Rail Distances: A beloved feature of the 3.5E map: every section of the Lightning Rail now has actual lengths added, so it's easy to calculate travel time/distance. Left them off the roads because a) the map was getting crowded and b) the terrain is variable enough that even with roads travel times might be adjusted. Use the hex map to estimate road travel times!

 GM, 104 posts
Tue 21 Jan 2020
at 13:44
Resolving Map and Timeline Issues
The original timeline of Eberron spans millions of years, with broad strokes epic feels worked in by Wizards of the Coast to make the setting feel more grand, against the original designs of the creators of the setting. Again, the "factor of ten" rule is brought up (as the original map scale and timeline were both expanded by that) but the problem is after they made the timeline bigger, they filled it in!

So if the Last War was not 100 years long but 10, the rise and fall of three or so generations of monarchs in each nation seems more a rapid fire assassination problem and less the ebb and flow of a long war. More importantly for me, the Church of the Silver Flame being 72 years old doesn't really track, and the Sundering (and humans being in Khorvaire, and all of pre-Galifer and Galifer history) being a couple centuries and change in years doesn't really give the right feel for what's been done in the continent (Sharn and the War of the Mark and the Lycanthropic Inquisition all need time to breathe, if not necessarily the massive scope presented). Short of going through and trying to crunch timelines so MORE is happening in less time while keeping it consistent, I can't severely reduce the timeline by a factor of ten, and even by a third (the other wisdom for distance reduction) is pushing some things. Plus the game title being "Year of the King 665", though auspicious, doesn't have as much significance as being on the edge of a new millenium

So Galifer's 1000 year history stays, the Last War was 100 years of intermittent fighting like before.

And then the 10,000 year empires before that shrink down a bit instead. Stolen shamelessly from reddit user AndruRC (Source)

Here's what I've come up with for a reduced-history Eberron, and I think it works pretty well. What I did was work backwards from the Kingdom of Galifar and reduced the time *between events* by a factor of 10. I've fudged some of the time periods (so they're not perfect factors of 10) to reduce some of the precision in the oldest dates.

[Eberron Pre-Galifar History][ dead link removed by Chronicler ]

In short:

* Dragons discover the prophecy in -150,000 YK
* Demons rule from the pre-recorded history, until the Couatls sacrifice themselves around 16,000 years ago.
* The Age of Giants was "around 10,000 years ago", lasting from -11,500 YK to -7,500 YK.
* The Elves settle Aerenal and goblinoid kingdoms begin to arise in -7,400 YK
* The Dhakaani Empire is established around 6,000 years ago (-5,100 YK)
* The Daelkry invasion occurs in -4,400 YK, with the Empire collapsing just a few hundred years later

All in all, the time periods seem pretty reasonable. The giants had their civilization for a few thousand years. The time between the giants pushing back Dal Quor, and when the Dragons said "enough is enough" is only a hundred years, short enough for the first incident to be fresh in everyone's minds (relatively speaking). And notably, the Dhakaani empire doesn't linger around for another 4000 years before collapsing.

 GM, 105 posts
Tue 21 Jan 2020
at 13:54
Resolving Map and Timeline Issues
And finally something to think on regarding the population size of Khorvaire, slightly alleviated by the size decrease the map above provides. Blog post by David Thomas Devine (Source)

I wrote about this several years ago on one of Wizards of the Coast’s (WotC) Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) forums.  The issue I have is that Eberron is a large continent, on par with the continental USA, and yet the population is incredibly low.  To give an example, I like to focus on Breland.  Breland is somewhat similar to the USA, in that they have a large industrial base, and are not structured in an extreme fashion (Anduair and Cyre have their magocracies, Thrane has its theocracy, and Karrnath is filled with undead).  They’re not described as being a cold northern nation like Karrnath, or a breadbasket like Aundair, but “Temperate in the north, tropical in the south”.  They balance magic and martial skill, and really have a feel of a melting pot society.

In the “Five Nations” book, Breland is listed as having a population of 3.7 million and an area of 1.8 million square miles.  That’s about 2 people per square mile, which is half the population density of either Mongolia or Western Sahara.  Even Chad, the nation at the bottom of the Legatum Prosperity Index, has a population density of 20 people per square mile.  Given some medieval examples of 100 people per square mile in France, 90 in Germany, and 40 in the Britain, this feels horribly skewed.  While it could be explained that this incredibly low population density comes as a result of the devastation of the Last War (a century long internecine fight over which of the five nations would rise to control the previous combined empire, Galifar), it doesn’t add up.  Even if Breland had a prewar population density of Britain (72 million), they would have to lose about 3% of their population each year for a hundred years.  By comparison, the US Civil War only lost about 0.8% of their population each year (averaged per year), and I doubt it could be considered to have been a small war.  A war as devastating so as to lose 3% of your population each year would push any nation to revolution.  Even looking at the raw numbers, losing 68.3 million people in war would put Breland alone in the ranks of the total losses in World War II.

Ultimately the losses in the Last War could end up on one of two ends; either it was significant, but sustainable, like the USA and it’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan, or devastating but irretrievable, like the Hundred Years War, where the populations so feared for their sovereignty that they were willing to keep going.  The former seems to be the direction the authors of the Eberron series decided to take, based on the continued existence of the non-territorial Dragonmarked Houses (equivalent of stateless corporations); in a full out, all in war, these Houses would find their assets seized.  The idea that House Cannith could produce Warforged for all sides of the conflict, despite apparently only having a few creation forges; had the creation forges been more widespread, than the knowledge of how they are constructed would be similarly widespread, and not a closely guarded secret of House Cannith.

Unlike the authors of Eberron, I prefer to see the Last War on the devastating but irretrievable side of things.  While they also suffered through the Black Death at the same time, France and England lost between a third and a half of their population from the beginning of the Hundred Years War to its end, 116 years later.  I imagine things to have been worse in Eberron.  With a starting population density of 80 people per square mile (144 million total), but with an attrition rate of 0.5% per year (sustainable, but heavy), after 102 years of war, Breland would have a population of 86 million, or roughly 50 people per square mile.

Now here is where the fun with the Doomesday Book comes in.  S. John Ross wrote a wonderful article “Medieval Demographics Made Easy”, in which he lists some of the statistics I used above, alongside observations of number of cities, professions, etc. to be able to give a robust view of a medieval nation.  Using a calculator made by Erin D. Smale, one can have a look at the before and after pictures of Breland.

Going into the Last War, Breland would have 144 million people, the vast majority of which would be living in villages.  It could support 5 Universities, and would have around 2100 actively used fortifications in civilized areas and about 700 in the wilderness.  In addition there would be about 5600 abandoned fortifications (4200 of which would be in the wilderness; this vast number of ruins is due to the settlement by the empire building Goblinoids 38000 years ago … only 1 in 3 were built by Humans).  There would be 4 major cities, 300 cities (around 12000 people per city), 1700 towns (5000 per town), and 285000 villages (450 per village).

Coming out of the Last War, Breland would have 86 million, with 2 Universities with another barely hanging on.  1800 actively used fortifications would remain (450 in the wilderness).  There would be 3 major cities, 185 cities, 1100 towns, and 180000 villages.

The toll of the war would be the loss of 300 fortifications, 1 major city, 115 cities, 600 towns, and about 100000 villages.  This doesn’t mean that these towns and villages would be completely empty, but to maintain the same population levels (12000, 5000, and 450), this is what the calculator spits out.  While the nation would have lost 40% of its total population, I would suspect that each centre of civilization would only drop by about 20%, as people would move to areas of higher population density for safety in numbers.  So a typical city would only have about 10000, a town 4000, and a village 400.  This would result in 225 cities, 1275 towns, and 215000 villages surviving (or 75 cities, 425, and 70000 villages lost).

Each city, town, and village could be expected to have plenty of empty buildings in which nefarious (and adventure generating) activities could occur, and the abandoned settlements would make for great bases of operations (and in their own way, dungeons).  Want to have a chase through a city, but don’t want to have to deal with the potential side effects of area of effect spells being hurled back and forth?  Have it set in scarcely populated city.  Want to give your players something to grow into?  Turn over authority for running a former city that has the population of a town now to them; they can decide whether or not to spruce up that crumbling cathedral, or maybe repurpose it into their new headquarters.  While the viability of half of the universities might be over, their might still have buildings standing, and there are all sorts of opportunities for secret labs, libraries for plundering, and containment wards wearing out.  New Cyre might be built in an area that was evacuated during the war (it is right between Thrane and Cyre, an ideal place for battles to take place), prompting survivors to ask adventurers to retrieve something they left behind.  That veteran who knows the location of a cache of weapons needed in a new conflict?  He’s gone back to his home village and is the only one living there, littering it with traps to foil off potential looters.

All in all, it gives the excuse to have lots of ruins, both new and very old (those Goblinoid ruins would be ancient), of a variety of styles and sizes, to be able to run adventures in.