New campaign in Karrnath; what are the nation's more endearing elements?

8 posts / 0 new
Last post
Hi all,

So I'm working on DMing a new game in Eberron. This will be the first time anyone in our group has played the setting. So far, in preparation, I've read the Campaign Guide and the Player's Guide.

After some discussion, we've decided that the players will run an ad-hoc protection service. We really liked the idea of "Acquisitions Inc." as played out by the Penny Arcade guys in their D&D podcast so that's the general idea of what we'll be doing, but more focused on escort/bodyguard service rather than "acquisitions."

I want to focus on bringing a small part of the world to life, since I don't really feel connected to the setting yet, and I'm sure my players don't either, (they have just started reading the Player's Guide.) The nation that was most interesting to me was Karrnath, (particularly the militaristic culture and the use of undead,) so I figured I'd start there. I'm interested to hear any related ideas or stories people have about Karrnath from their Eberron campaigns, but I also have a few specific questions:

- What are some elements of Karrnathi culture that the players/characters could sympathize with? Any unique idiosyncasies to latch on to?
- How would a freelance bodyguard/escort service relate to the Dragonmarked houses in the area, particularly House Deneith? What kind of jobs might they get?
- Which city would make for a fun home base?

Thanks so much for any help!
Look into the 3.5 Eberron book "Five Nations".  A lot of the crunch won't help you, but the fluff is still extremely relevant.  
Well, I'd say one way to drive home the militeristic culture is to remind them of the martial law that Karrnath is under. Also, if your players are into Costume Porn you can drive home how civilian fashions mimic military uniforms.

Don't forget the long Karrn tradition of beer, cheese, sausages, and cigars, as well as their love of fried food. I had a group that declared Karrnath the best nation in Khorvaire solely on their chief exports (beer, cigars, cheese, sausages)

Gold is for the mistress, silver for the maid

Copper for the craftsman, cunning at his trade.

"Good!" said the Baron, sitting in his hall,

"But Iron -- Cold Iron -- is master of them all." -Kipling


Miss d20 Modern? Take a look at Dias Ex Machina Game's UltraModern 4e!


57019168 wrote:
I am a hero, not a chump.
Hey, CoupleK. Are you still thinking up this campaign? I've got a lot I could recommend about Karrnath. It was the sheer awesomeness of this nation that made me choose it for some storytellingWink

Jeff LaSala / freelancer

Wizards of the Coast:

The Darkwood Mask (The Inquisitives, Eberron)

DDI ("History Check: The Tarrasque," "History Check: Corellon and Gruumsh," "D&D Love Stories," "Faith & Heresy," etc.)


Blindsided Books:

Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero


The thing that I see about Karnnath that most defines it is an unbreakable spirit.

Karnnath was founded by Karn the Conqueror, the man who united an untamed wilderness into what would become the continent spanning nation of Galifer.  This was his land, a land of strong backed people who would never give up, never back down, no matter what.  During the Last War, to be blunt, Karnnath was winning.  It's military was second to none, it had the power, it had the discipline, it had the edge.

Then fate (or something more) stepped in.  A horrible series of winters meant the country could no longer feed itself, at the same time a terrible plague ravaged the land.  Either the nation could have survived on it's own, but the two combined at once was more than enough to bring the mighty nation to it's knees.  Instead of facing surrender, Karnnath did what Karnnath does, it turned it's weakeness into strength.  By selling it's metaphorical soul to the Blood of Vol, they raised their own dead to fight for their country once more.  Bolstered by an army that knew no pain nor fear, Karnnath stood it's ground.

Their spirit had been twisted, but it had not broken.

Thats the key to playing a Karnnathi or a game set in Karnnath, IMO.  Most of the people there don't like the undead and wish there had been a better way, but there wasn't.  They did what needed to be done to keep from falling.  That insanely strong national pride that kept them going when all common sense said to give up.  Going to any extreme to avoid failure.

I see them a lot like Russia during the Napoleonic wars.  Napoleon was an unstoppable force that had conquered most of Europe, and he had turned his eye on Russia.  Russia knew they couldn't beat him in a face to face battle, so they did the unthinkable.  They burned their own towns and villages.  Each time Napoleon got close, the Russians fell back, burning everything behind them, forcing Napoleon to stretch his supply lines thinner and thinner, until the Russian winter finished them off.

Scorched Earth.  The willful destruction of your own land in order to spite an enemy's advance.  Thats the kind of pride and power I expect to see from Karnnath.  Any sacrifice that will lead to victory is a sacrifice worth making.  Never give up, never back down, never surrender.  That is the Karnnathi way (or at least the way I see it), and that is the base mindset I would expect to see from Karnnathis.  Proud, stubborn, and not willing to give up an inch unless doing so costs the other guy a mile.

Heh, lets just say you don't haggle with a Karnnathi, you pay what they ask or you get nothing at all.
Hey, CoupleK. Are you still thinking up this campaign? I've got a lot I could recommend about Karrnath. It was the sheer awesomeness of this nation that made me choose it for some storytelling

I highly recommend The Darkwood Mask. Reading it gave me a good feel for how to portray Karrns and Karrnath (at least in Korth) in my campaign, particularly with one of my players being from Karrnath. And, heck, it's just a good story to boot!
Call me Ender.
Hi folks,

Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to respond! I liked what I read here.

Our campaign went in a completely different direction and we started near Wroat in Breland instead, but Karrnathi zombie infantry will be playing a part. It's been my longest running game ever at 15 sessions and going strong!

Anyway, perhaps I shouldn't necro a thread just to say thanks... but this forum looks like it moves slowly enough that hopefully it's okay

Cheers, and thanks again.
Well, necromancy is a Karrnathi speciality!

What made you change your mind and start in Wroat? And I'd be interested to hear what role the Karrnathi "Risen Patriots" (was it the Darkwood Mask which coined this term? Or Bound by Iron?) get to fulfill. In your own time, of course, if your players risk to read spoilers!

As far as my view of Karrnath goes, I agree with Edymnion's view that they are stubborn, proud and death-before-dishonour people. They have a difficult country to live in. Its climate seems to conjure up images of Siberia, with long cold winters and rainy, short summers; towards the Talenta plains, it's probably continental. Cold winters, hot summers, pretty extreme weather. The Karrn way to deal with this, in my opinion, is to fight the world around you but rely on your community to help you. Which means they are extremely protective of their friends, but distrust outsiders. 

Another attributes I attach to the Karrns is an almost reactionary traditionalism. My Karrns tend to stick to the simple fashions of the good old days. They distrust new ideas, like Brelish parlamentarianism. That they are essentially isolated since the destruction of the White Arch Bridge and Cyre does not help matters, nor does the rather successful Karrn propaganda efforts (designed to exalt all things Karrnathi, organise youth clubs and feats, wave the flag, etc, rather than mock the enemy, which would be dishonourable). But I also see them as a people who, when amongst their own, get drunk together and sink songs they learned in their army days, reminescing about great victories and lost comrades. 

I also see them as a country of contrasts. You have extremely civilised cities, where an urban bourgeoisie has developped - merchants, craftsmen, and officer class. In these places, you'll find culture and education, and I tend to see the Karrns as people who enjoy a good Wagnerian opera or Russian ballet. Amongst that class, manners and etiquette are important, and chivalrous and courtly behaviour is in vogue. And once you reach Atur, it actually reaches a certain level of decadence. Overall, I also see a certain celebration of melancholy and an ability to enjoy stories which doesn't have a happy ending in Karrn art.

Move away from that into the countryside, and you get a harsh place, and one where serfdom dominates. What your life is like depends on your warlord: some take their responsability to protect and feed their people seriously, but not all do. The only escape from serfdom is joining the military, provided you make the muster. And even if you have a good lord, he might be wound up in a feud with the one down the road, and although the King should technically solve disputes, Kaius III is not as powerful as he would like.

This leads to my third idea, which is that of a pervasive secret police. Only one book mentions the "Dark Cabinet" without saying much about it, so I have turned them into a group of royal agents who don't do much spying outside the country, but are quite good at ferretting out dissent in the ranks. They'll infiltrate the warlords' staff, and make a speciality of agents provocateurs. In the cities of my Karrnath, organised crime is not faring so well, since a number of recent syndicates which successfully recruited felons turned out to be set up by agents of the Dark Cabinet in the first place, and those who tried to join or even those who refused to run to the guard and reveal what they knew would end up in trouble. Note that the Dark Cabinet is not the Trust of Zilargo; they are nowhere near as subtle, and in most cases, calling them a "secret" police is stretching the term.  

Just a few others of the attitudes of Karrns in my Eberron:

They generally despise mercenaries. Deneith is fine; they are traditional. But anyone who fights for money rather than his or her country doesn't meet with much approval.

They are skilled fighters. Not, as sometimes represented, overwhelming-force types. Karrnath has the premier military academy, and is the most advanced in terms of standard military ability. This means combined arms, polearm tactics, top-notch military engineers and pioneers, bastioned forts rather than good, old walls, use of mines (tunnels, not the modern weapon), superb cartography, and officers who generally try to get as many of their people out alive as they can whilst still winning the battle and not appearing indecisive (this partly as an influence from the Blood of Vol, which considers death to be the worst fate possible).

They are not as unified as people who see their military formations may think. They tend to congregate in units, be their tent-groups on campaign, quarters in a city, or warlord fiefs. You may have heard about Nightwood Ale, but other cities and communities will tell you that stuff is undrinkable compared to what they brew locally.

They expect people to sacrifice their own needs to the community. Everyone is supposed to lend a hand if there is trouble; trying not to get dirty will get you ostracised pretty quickly. Even if you are a noble.

Social mobility. Karrns value ability, courage and readiness to assist the community. They do value a noble lineage which goes back far enough to think of the ir'Wynarn family as upstarts, but they are happy to let someone who rose through the ranks into the nobility and the upper military echelons.

Militarism. Even before the war, Karrn was famous for this; if anything, the war increased that feeling. The military runs everything; virtually every citizen has served in the army, and reflexively obeys anyone in a higher-ranking uniform. In the pre-World-War One area of Germany, one man, a cobler by trade named Voigt, purchased himself a captain's uniform in Berlin, comandeered some soldiers, travelled to Köpenick and proceeded to arrest the mayor and confiscate the treasury... and it worked. They caught him afterwards, but it worked, and I could see this work in Karrnath. Incidentally, the Emperor's reaction was to feel rather proud of this, and how it showed his people's discipline. Voigt was let off with a minor prison sentence. That too I could see happen; Karrns do have a sense of humor.

They are honourable. Mostly, if given the option, Karrns will not cheat you. They will not, as a rule, kill you if you surrender. But if you cheat them, the entire community will turn against you (and against your community).

Well, just some ideas, even though they are not needed anymore for Wroat...

My Eberron Characters. Commissions by various artists on Deviant Art.

Sign In to post comments