Serpent's Skull in Eberron
I’d like everyone to create a 1st level character, 28-pt buy if 3.5 or 15-pt buy in pathfinder, and it needs to have 2 Character Traits. Beyond that, just about anything goes. You character can be from anywhere on Eberron you want, any race, any class, etc. Don’t go too crazy, but feel free to be creative.
I’m including character traits for character creation in this campaign. Each character should choose 2 traits from the Character Traits section. The two traits may not be from the same list. I like them because they can help with encouraging an actual personality for your characters in role play, while also allowing them a little boost in roll play. I just ask that you resist the temptation to use these to min/max your character, but rather use them as a way to expand the abilities of your character.
While many of the background hooks described below involve seafaring and nautical adventuring, the campaign takes place on land, amid treacherous jungles, ruined cities, and vast underground vaults. Players who create PCs optimized for adventures at sea will be disappointed; use these suggestions to get PCs on the Jenivere, but don’t expect them to stay there. If you want to play a “fish-out-of-water” character, thrown into adventures where his sea legs won’t help him, consider making your PC a member of the Jenivere’s crew, but keep in mind that aquatic animal companions or skills such as Profession(sailor) won’t benefit him for most of the campaign.
Your band of characters begins the campaign as passengers on a cargo ship called the Jenivere, headed south to Xen’Drik. The voyage promises not only to bring your characters together as you face adversity, but also to set you on a path into the very heart of one of Eberron’s most feared regions in search of wealth, fame, and ancient secrets. PCs in the campaign may be from just about anywhere. Countless motivations draw the daring, curious, and downright foolhardy to Xen’Drik with the hope of attaining personal fame and fortune, and your PCs likely boast a variety of backgrounds and decidedly different reasons for traveling to Xen’Drik’s frontier city. This guide is intended to provide characters with a reason to be on the Jenivere, whether they are from a distant part of the Khorvaire journeying to a new land or natives of Stormreach returning home. The following suggestions provide basic information on potential PC origins, but focus on motivations to bring characters of all races and classes to Xen’Drik. Use this guide as a starting point to give your PCs a reason to be aboard the fateful voyage that launches the campaign.
The following pages outline qualities of typical members of the core races and classes. Characters of all alignments, religions, and homelands can play a vital role in this campaign, and the following suggestions should serve to spark a concept or background for your PC. You’ll also find several new traits specific to the campaign to better customize your characters and link them to the campaign’s setting and plot.
Members of all races have reason to travel aboard the Jenivere, seeking fame, fortune, or in some cases, anonymity and escape. All of Eberron’s core races exist in Xen’Drik and members of any could be natives returning home from journeys abroad. Likewise, members of all races have numerous motivations to travel to the region from distant homelands throughout the Khorvaire and Eberron at large. Regardless of your PC’s race, the passage south will set him on a straight course for adventure.
I’ve removed this section as it would have required a complete rewrite of all material.
While Xen’Drik plays host to some classes more easily than others, members of all types have reason to journey to the region on the Jenivere. Be they natives to the land( from Stormreach or maybe drow) returning home from travels abroad or foreigners venturing into uncharted territory for the first time, characters of any class can play an important role in the campaign. The following suggestions should provide context for both native and foreign PCs of all classes, but members of each may find additional reasons to travel to Xen’Drik based on their particular origins.
Wild and reckless barbarians seem a natural fit for the untamed reaches of Xen’Drik, and many warriors native to the region are more berserkers than trained fighters. Generally considered cultured, even elves have barbaric tribes in the depths of Xen’Drik’s Jungles. Xen’Drik’s position as the new frontier for exploration attracts many brawlers who find life in other lands difficult, and dockside taverns and brothels teem with unruly warriors from as far away as the Demon Wastes, the Mror Holds and the Talenta Plains; countless vessels bring such travelers to Stormreach’s harbor on a daily basis, the Jenivere among them.
Recommendations: Wilderness exploration plays a major role in the campaign, so skills like Acrobatics, Climb, Handle Animal, Perception, Survival, and Swim will be used quite often. The talentsof an accomplished combatant, especially one capable of sensing traps and with experience in the wilds, also won’t go untested.
Ever collecting lost lore and captivating tales of high adventure, bards are frequently drawn to the ancient lands of the Empire of Giants. Stormreach, sitting atop Giant ruins itself, makes an ideal destination for traveling bards from across Khorvaire. The ongoing struggle between Khorvaire’s explorers and the drow natives has raised the demand for political agents, and bards increasingly serve both causes as diplomats, mediators, spies, and inspirational orators. Native bards often specialize in the tribal chants and rhythmic drumcalling of the Drow people, in whose oral traditions they feature prominently. The thrumming beat of their ancestral drums resonates through the dense foliage and expansive savannas of the nation, maintaining an air of mystery about the drummers that still unsettles visitors to this day.
Recommendations: Diplomatic interactions between native tribes, nations, and other factions play a significant role in the campaign. Skills like Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Sense Motive should be helpful quite often. All Knowledge skills will be useful at points during the campaign, but those having to do with the wilderness, esoteric religions, and the history and elusive secrets of Xen’Drik will be most useful (typically arcana, geography, history, local, nature, and religion). Not a few of the region’s inhabitants, such as giant vermin or enormous carnivorous plants, are immune to mindaffecting magic. The versatile bard makes sure to have options available to deal with such threats when exploring Xen’Drik.
Priests of all faiths travel the world on vessels much like the Jenivere, and can justifiably be mere passengers on the voyage. Those most likely to travel to Xen’Drik might be clerics of Kol Korran, seeking to help establish trade and commerce with Xen’Drik, or faithful of the Silver Flame hoping to bring light to the dark natives. Members of the Drow tribes often venerate a deity known as Vulkoor, a scorpion god that some believe is a manifestation of the Mockery. The Sulatar tribe has stayed loyal to the teachings of their Giant masters and believe the many ancient ruins to be sources of immense and mysterious power. Less common, though nevertheless present, the lizard people of Xen’Drik worship the dragon Syberis and believe that the Heart of Syberis lies somewhere within the expanse of Xen’Drik; cultists from across Eberron may be drawn to the region in search of like-minded people, or demon hunters and holy warriors may travel here to hunt down and eradicate these evil sects.
Recommendations: Balinor may be a good choice for the campaign, with the faith’s focus on wilderness and animals promising to serve worshipers well over the course of the campaign. Clerics of Arawai will similarly benefit from the natural strengths of their faith.
Stormreach serves as an active gateway to the jungles of Xen’Drik, and few locations on Eberron attract druids in large numbers like the wild and untamed lands of Xen’Drik. Whether hoping to explore the region, harness its primeval powers, or guide civilization into the dense wilderness, druids often pass through Stormreach. Among the native population, many tribes employ shamanistic druids as spiritual leaders, and apprentice druids might hope to learn from the peoples of Xen’Drik. Druids are likely to be aboard the Jenivere as passengers, en route to Stormreach and Xen’Drik beyond with more personal motivations.
Recommendations: A wide variety of exotic creatures make logical choices for druids operating in Xen’Drik: ape, bird, boar, cat (big or small), crocodile, dinosaur, dog, horse, pony, and snake (constrictor or viper). The following additional choices are also logical: dire bat, dire rat, elephant, giant frog, hyena, monitor lizard.
Few classes are as well suited for the dangerous and violent lands of Xen’Drik as the dedicated and highly-trained fighter. Often hired to escort vulnerable explorers, scholars, and merchants through the imposing jungles, fighters travel with nearly every group on the roads or waterways of the region. In the more civilized areas around Stormreach, mercenaries from across Khorvaire may be hired to fight for either side of the ongoing conflict between the natives and explorers. Fighters born and raised in the region may be returning home on the Jenivere after a campaign—failed or successful—in the nations of the north.
Recommendations: All manner of artifacts exist in Xen’Drik, but legends speak of certain types of powerful magic weapons being hidden in the region’s ancient ruins. Fighters might want to avoid dedicating themselves to the use of heavy armor—or pursue ways of increasing their mobility in such armaments—as the heat and other challenges of the jungle can make such gear unwieldy, or even dangerous, to wear.
Xen’Drik is not typically a region known for its monk inhabitants, but there are a number of reasons one might travel to the region from Darguun, Thrane, or somewhere else in Khovaire. Among the native peoples of the Xen’Drik interior, there are many cultures which forego armor and manufactured weapons, preferring the increased mobility and spontaneity unarmed combat allows as they face unsuspected threats in the dangerous land; a Drow monk may lack fangs and talons, but his natural weapons are no less effective than those of the jungle’s most ferocious beasts.
Recommendations: While monks are not particularly common in Xen’Drik, a monk’s self-sufficiency will prove quite helpful in the campaign. Speed and flexibility will also serve monk characters well in a land of unpredictable challenges, both living and environmental. Focusing on ways to cripple creatures that rely more on natural weapons than on manufactured tools will serve monks well.
Holy warriors may travel to Xen’Drik for any number of reasons. Paladins focused on maintaining order see the vast lawlessness of Xen’Drik as needing their attention, and Sovereign Host and Silver Flame paladins travel to Stormreach to face the threat of open conflict with the native Drow inhabitants. On the other hand, paladins may pity the natives’ plight and work to right the injustices committed by northern oppressors. Others still might set their sights on eliminating the spread of what they see as disease and savagery as relics from the past f low out of the Xen’Drik to the civilized world. Paladins with this ambition may travel to Stormreach in the hope of discovering lost cities to seal their secrets deep in the jungle.
Recommendations: The Silver Flame and any of the Sovereign Host always make fine divine patrons for paladins, but in the depths of the wilderness such crusaders shouldn’t expect significant support from their churches. Also, a paladin’s mount can often prove troublesome in the claustrophobic jungle tangles and shadowy ruins common to the upcoming adventures—making the ability to summon and dismiss such a companion at will most beneficial. Yet for all the challenges a paladin might face, the class’s resistance to many afflictions and ability to heal disease, poison, and other maladies commonly employed by denizens of the jungle make a paladin a most welcome addition to any band of explorers.
The jungles of the Xen’Drik call silently to explorers from across the Thunder Sea to discover and tame them. Rangers often act as guides for scholars, archaeologists, or other parties venturing into the dark heart of the region. Some see it as their duty to protect the world from the strange and monstrous denizens of the deep jungle, and are adept at killing the foul creatures and malignant peoples that threaten the inhabitants of Stormreach and Xen’Drik. Other rangers see the region as prime hunting grounds to obtain a record-setting trophy and travel from across Khorvaire to traverse the vast swaths of Xen’Drik’s wilderness in search of rare big game, including dinosaurs, giant apes, and monsters only spoken of in legend.
Recommendations: The ability to track well is particularly valuable in the campaign, and a variety of exotic animals might make for fine companions. The following favored enemy selection make excellent choices for rangers in the Serpent’s Skull Adventure Path: aberration, animal, humanoid, magical beast, plant, outsider (chaotic or evil), undead, and especially monstrous humanoid. Particularly useful favored terrain choices include jungle, underground, and urban.
The treasures of Xen’Drik’s jungles were instrumental in the Cyran rise to power and their ultimate demise, as explorers f locked to the ancient ruins south of Stormreach hoping to tap the land’s rich resources and ancient secrets to fuel the forge of war. The same treasures continue to attract tomb-robbers and fate-tempters from across Khorvaire, despite the Xen’Drik isolation from the northern realms. Ambitious pirates and thieves take inspiration from the pirate princes of Lhazaar, whose coffers have overflowed with tribute from Khorvaire merchants in exchange for decades of protection. Whether from Sharn, the Lhazaar Principalities, or Darguun, many enterprising rogues make their way to the dangerous region to muscle their own living off the weak and needy. Endless and ever more embellished tales of fantastic and impossible treasures hidden in lost jungle ruins also tempt countless treasure hunters to venture into the heart of Xen’Drik, risking their lives for wealth beyond imagination.
Recommendations: The campaign includes many traps and extensive underground exploration, as well as hazards, ambushes, and social situations where rogues can excel. A rogue talented at stealth and scouting, particularly in wilderness areas and ancient ruins, should do well. While Disable Device, Perception, and Stealth prove endlessly useful, rogues with a knack for Appraise, Diplomacy, Knowledge skills, Linguistics, and other more physical skills will be well equipped to face the campaign’s challenges.
Ever exploring the far corners of the world in search of ways to test their mysterious powers, sorcerers often find that Xen’Drik provides many such opportunities. Many sorcerers frequently feel drawn to the ancient ruins of the region, as if their full potential can be realized only by tapping into the powers of the past. They find the ruins of lost empires a rich source of magical power, and often delve into the wild to uncover answers to ageless enigmas. In rare cases, explorers who have never exhibited signs of innate arcane abilities manifest long-dormant powers when exposed to the strange and unknowable reaches of the deep jungle, and some youths journey recklessly into the wild hoping to unlock some as yet unrealized potential.
Recommendations: Sorcerers might want to explore their options beyond combat spells when choosing their spell lists, as versatile utility spells and magic well suited to wilderness exploration, like comprehend languages, endure elements, and unseen servant can prove most beneficial.
Many wizard colleges encourage exploration or study in far-off lands, and Stormreach—being one of only a few gateways to Xen’Drik—is a natural choice for arcane scholars the world over. Whether from the Great Library of Korranberg, the Arcane Tower in Sharn, the Wizard Enclave in Aundaire, or the Hall of Arcane Studies in Karrnath, apprentice wizards frequently sail to Stormreach in the hope of discovering long lost secrets in the jungles to the south. Untold civilizations have risen and fallen in the heart of the Xen’Drik wilds, leaving behind secrets and magical lore few adventurous spell casters can resist the draw to discover. Even if foreigners don’t plan to delve deeply into the jungles themselves, the rich tapestry of arcane forms practiced among the varied populations of Drow are enough to draw wizards from around the globe, and the Jenivere is a perfect means of getting to Xen’Drik’s shores.
Recommendations: See the Bard recommendations for good Knowledge skill choices. All of the arcane schools should be equally useful throughout the campaign, with the possible exception of enchanters, who may be periodically frustrated at the number of creatures like giant vermin or plants who are immune to mind-affecting magic. While any sort of bonded object is possible in the campaign, wizards who opt instead to take on a familiar might wish to choose creatures that make sense for the region in which the campaign takes place. Logical choices for familiars based on the region’s climate include all of the basic familiars. Good choices of improved familiars (again, based on the themes of the campaign) include celestial or fiendish animals, dire rats, mephits, and pseudodragons.