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Posts tagged ‘Interview with Keith Baker @ PAX’


Interview with Keith Baker @ PAX

On Saturday of PAX Prime 2011, after our brunch with Marcy, we met up with Keith Baker. Keith Baker is a game designer and fantasy novel author. He is best known as a freelance writer of Dungeons & Dragons material and the campaign setting Eberron, which won the Wizards of the Coast Fantasy Setting Search in 2002.  In addition to working on Eberron, he has also contributed material for Atlas Games, Goodman Games, Paizo Publishing and Green Ronin Games.

Keith is getting married this month on the 9th, then moving to Austin, TX to work with Zynga (makers of Farmville). Does this mean we get Eberronville? Of course not!  But congratulations to Keith and many best wishes to you and your bride to be!

You can listen to the full cast here. Or Read the Transcript below!



Interview with Keith Baker Transcript at PAX Prime 2011

Keith Baker, Marcy Rockwell and Sig Sigfried:  This is Sigfried Trent with DDOcast with Keith Baker, the chief creator of Eberron. How are you enjoying show so far?

Keith Baker:  So far I’m having a great time. Just got done taking a look at Update 11 and it looks awesome.

S:  Did you take a little tour of some of the new stuff?

K: I did indeed! The Lords of Blades looks like a bad-ass.

S: I got to imagine that it’s pretty fun when you create a world and when you get artists and developers put it together, and to see some of your ideas come to life.

K: Especially with this one, it was really great to go in some of the areas and say, “Oooh! Creation Forge! That’s what it’s supposed to look like!”

S: And in the early days, did you work a lot with the artists on the series to set the tone of DDO?

K: No, not so much in the early days, but over the last year or so I’ve been talking more with Turbine. Initially, I really wasn’t that involved. Obviously, I was working with Wizards and they were working with Turbine.

S: Interestingly, earlier in the show we were talking with Marcy Rockwell about her new book and a lot of people work on Eberron. I was wondering about your perspective on creating a whole new world and then having a lot of people collaborate on it. Is it fun to see the stuff they come up with?

K:  Absolutely! Though there are certain things that have been done for Eberron that I would have done differently if it was entirely in my hands and every single piece of writing was done by me. Some have written things wish they did differently, and some of which I feel like, “Wow! I wish I thought of that!”  But beyond that, there’s 40 novels out there in Eberron and that’s an amazing thing . And just as I said, going and see the Creation Forge and Lord of Blades, I’m thinking, “There’s going to be hundreds of thousands of players fighting him!” It is just a pretty amazing experience!

S: You write a lot of Eberron novels yourself, what makes it fun about writing for the setting?

K: Well, for me it’s things about Eberron. What I love to say (as in my last Thorn of Breland series) is that part of the point of Eberron is saying “If magic as in D&D presents it existed, how would it impact society? How would it be incorporated into the world?”  So taking the Thorn of Breland series, that’s essentially saying: What would espionage be like; what would James Bond be like if he had access to all the magic  that you get in D&D? What if he was fighting medusa’s instead of Moonraker?  So its that sort of element of taking classic fantasy, but then spinning it slightly to say how it would evolve? How would it NOT mirror our world, but evolve in the same way that technology had been incorporated into ours. Again, you get some of that with the Artificer and House Cannith.

The houses in general, you get more of this idea of corporate power versus national power. It plays a little to cyberpunk:  there’s this theme of as guilds grow in power and as war weakens the monarchy; do they really have the power to enforce any thing on the houses? Or are the houses really more powerful than they are? I really love playing around with those kind of themes.

S: Yeah it’s great! You get tension between different forces in the world, and that’s a really strong theme in Eberron. Each continent it’s got its own, not only current history of forces that are trying to take over or vie for control, but there’s a deep past of historical foes. Certainly DDO brings them back from time to time.

K: And that’s where I get excited and say [in DDO], “Aah! Its them!” The use of Quori has been very entertaining. It’s something, were as if you are doing it in table top you pick your villain you are going to use. Because there are so many, you can’t use them all.  It’s always fun to see something come up, especially in a visual way.

S: I think that’s one of the nice things about computer games, but you can’t approach the creativity you can as in a live role playing game. But you get to experience a much wider array of possible adventures that can happen to your character.

K: And that’s the thing, they’re both different experiences. The table game gives you the chance, literally to do anything, but a computer game gives you the chance to walk in the world when you don’t have a game master. When it’s just you, a couple friends, its midnight, and you just want to go beat up the Lord of Blades. And there he is!

S:  When you were working on Eberron initially — and you know it’s a world of magic “technology” — where did you feel like you needed to draw the line from feeling like actual science fiction?

K: Well, one of the things that came up was where we started to propose the level of magic math. Again its magic that exists in D&D. It’s a question of at what level is it common place. At 5th level in 3rd edition, you have things like teleportation, raise dead, and sending telepathically. And if those are common in the world, that’s a very different high tech kind of Star Trekie sort of civilization.  That gets us to what amounts to telegraphs, railroads, and air travel – a relatively new thing in Eberron; it’s not everywhere you don’t have an air port in every city. It’s more like the turn of late 19th century.   We don’t have the equivalent of a gun. They’re still using crossbows; now they may be enchanted crossbows, but they’re still using swords and their still using crossbows. Those things are still in the game. And I think having all magic-blasting weapons and being able to teleport transport – these are going to create more of a science fiction flavor.

S: I think another interesting dynamic is if you have a magic society where the forces of order and civilization have these powerful organized things at their command, the enemies are wild. Eberron has a wild and dangerous feel. You have to have forces opposing that; that are equally treating and powerful but in different ways.

K: And that’s one of the places where you get the houses themselves and be enemies – and hey, they do control magic!  You have the Quori and the Inspired who have the psionics, which essentially people don’t really understand how their powers work. And then you have forces like the dragons and the Lords of Dust, which aside from their pure power, have a level of infiltration into society where they are able to manipulate on a very high level.

But yes, it’s all about exploring different uses of magic including ways you don’t necessarily think of .

S: One of my favorite things that they introduced into the game was more references to Droaam nation. Which I think is a really great idea to have civilized monsters, but are also considered to be dangerous and savage.  In a lot of other settings, you begin to wonder where are all the orcs and goblins coming from, and why haven’t they built great cities and done amazing things since they have all the tools necessary. So Eberron provides them with a place where it’s very much the case.

K: With Eberrron, I really want everything to make sense to me. Hobgoblins are just as intelligent as Humans. They’re a marshal race, why don’t they ever have a great empire? So we do have that in Eberrron, and then we said “And this is why we don’t anymore,” but we still have out posts of them. We still have a legacy of it.

Droaam is one of my favorite places for that: You take medusas. Medusas are actually, by the books, smarter than people. If they are species, then why do they not just isolated creatures, what’s the society they would build? How would they use their power of petrifaction within their own society? Things like that are interesting questions. Making the monsters deeper, even if they are still enemies,  and making them feel like that they have a life of their own and in a way that makes sense.

S: And giving them real character in that sense.

K:  The Queen of Stone, the first book of the Thorn of Breland series, a lot of people have told me that their favorite character is the medusa, who is the antagonist in the story.

S: Now, I’m curious  (and I’m sure you’ve answered this question before) where does the name Eberron come from? What was the inspiration?

K: The name Eberron is not my name. The name Eberron came from Bill Slavicsek.  That was when the Fantasy Setting Search [a contest by Wizards] went through three stages. And after the final stage, I then worked with Wizards to turn it into the world it is today. Initially when I submitted it, it didn’t have a name. It was thrilling tales of sword and sorcery in a pulp noir theme, but it was the flavor more than the world itself. So Eberron the name was Bill Slavicsek.

S: So what stage did it gets its name

K: In the third stage. There’s a few funny things with the names. So for example Sharn was originally a country name.  And the City of Sharn originally existed under a different name. Fairhaven, which is the capital city of Aundair, also use to be a country.  You still have Thrane and Cyre still existing.  But it was a bunch of things like that, where the names got shifted around.

S: Have you ever run a campaign for friends in the Eberron setting yourself?

K: Oh yeah tons!

S: Are there any interesting differences in your home brew game?

K: Absolutely! To me, the thing about Eberron is, that at the table, we encourage you to make it your world; to do what you want to do with it. There are certainly things that I do differently in my world. One of the things I’ll do (we’re playing 4th edition right now) is that I restrict certain kinds of magic to the dragonsmarks. That gives the dragonmark houses a greater power level; when you say House Jorasco are the only people who can cure disease, it’s easier to understand why they dominate the health industry.  Generally speaking, a cleric can’t cure disease. They can do first aid, but not cure disease. So it’s that sort of thing that I like to do. I like having the Houses be significant powers in the world, so I put touches like that in.

And there are other things: one of the things we highlighted in the transition to Fourth from Third. Some images didn’t come out in Third was that they impact the war and the ongoing impact of the war. This is a still a society where there is a lot of tension from a war that nobody won. There’s still a really strong cold war going on. And that’s more relevant in the table game where it’s in Khorvaire; whereas Stormreach is sort of like Casa Blanca – the neutral ground. It’s something I bring up when I’m running in Khorvaire.

Also the Blood of Vol is a religion I could go on about. The Blood of Vol and the Silver Flame, I have a bunch of things I do with them when I’m running them personally. But I could go on for over an hour about that.

S: There’s some nice examples in the game [about the Silver Flame]. One particular quest that is  where the Silver Flame asks you to go and kill some heretics who turn out to be nice good little Halflings, who are quietly going about their business. It’s one of the few quests where refuse to do out of role play purposes, because they don’t want to heartlessly mow down the poor little halfings. So I think its neat that they included a moral element in Eberrron, in the game.

K: The point of Eberron is pulp noir, but that’s just a spectrum. And its always been that way, so if you want to do Raiders of the Lost Ark and fighting the Nazis – that’s great, you can!  And if you want very shady  “are we doing the right thing,” go to Sharn and jump into bed with the Boromar Clan.  We want to provide both experiences.

S: Alright that’s about as much time as we have, cool thanks for talking with us today!

K: Your welcome! [which got cut off at the end!]