From Eberron creator Kieth baker’s website where he answers questions about the setting. good stuff to know.
“Artistically speaking, Keith, what’s the difference between the Demon Wastes and the Mournland? Both seem like they could pretty much be the Mordor of Eberron with their endless wastelands filled with pure evil. They kinda seem redundant, so I was curious how you see their places in the setting differing.”
Good question. Why have two malign realms, not to mention Droaam, Darguun, and the Shadow Marches? Here’s my quick look at these two regions, and the purpose they serve in the setting.
THE DEMON WASTES
This is a land of ancient danger and mystery. This could well be compared to Mordor, in that it is a place of dark legend, where malevolent spirits are said to linger and hold sway. Ruined cities of the Age of Demons remain here, along with some structures not so ruined, or fortresses that return to their former glory when the moons are in the proper alignment. A number of rajahs are bound beneath the Wastes, and their power corrupts the world above, creating fiendish creatures and tainting the barbarian tribes that venerate the buried evil.
When dealing with the Demon Wastes, there are a few things to consider. It is a distant frontier. It has never been successfully colonized by the people of Galifar (or Dhakaan, for that matter), and few of the people of the heartlands have any real idea what lies beyond the Labyrinth. It is one of the most concentrated sources of ruins and relics of the Age of Demons, which could mean strange powers and dark magic.
With that said, the Demon Wastes are predictable. Spend enough time in the Wastes and you’ll learn the ways of this land. If the fiendish wolves emerge from the black pool when Barakas is full, they’ll always emerge when Barakas is full. It’s a hard land, but the Carrion Tribes have learned to survive there… and a Ghaash’kala guide might be willing to help you adapt to this land.
So, to summarize: The Demon Wastes are ancient, home to the ruins of civilizations far older than human or goblinoid civilization – though many of these ruins are little more than dust. There are many unnatural dangers in the Wastes, but these can be anticipated, and follow some patterns. And while none of the nations of Galifar have settled the land, there are tribes that have lived there for centuries. By comparison…
Where the Demon Wastes are old and on the edge of civilization, the Mournland is new and at its very heart. The Mourning took a vibrant kingdom and transformed it into a horror. In the Wastes you find crumbling remnants of strange, alien cities. In the Mournland you have Metrol, Making, and dozens of other Cyran communities – strange and deadly shadows of what they once were, but nonetheless recognizably human cities. The treasures of the Mournland aren’t bizarre ancient relics; they are the goods of dragonmarked houses and Cyran nobles, lost in the disaster. Few people in the Five Nations are familiar with the Demon Wastes, but there are hundreds of thousands of refugees from Cyre who know their old home.
Beyond that, the Mournland is deeply unpredictable and implacably hostile. The Demon Wastes are home to tribes of orcs and humans, not to mention fiends. But it should be very difficult for anyone to build a kingdom in the Mournland, human or fiend. The warforged would have an easier time than most, because they don’t require food (or for that matter sleep) and have a way to repair damage. But there are any number of dangers that could rise to threaten the warforged city. Living spells, ghostly warriors, or other monsters are a simple problem. More complex are magical effects that roam like weather patterns in other lands, from firestorms to mists that destroy any metal object they touch, while leaving flesh unharmed. Then there are plagues, which could mimic known diseases, or which could afflict memory, soul, or similarly intangible aspects. The geography of the Mournland is generally stable. The path of certain predators can be predicted. But things like the plagues, the storms – you never know when something like that is going to arrive. If you use the city of Construct, one possibility is that the Lord of Blades has found a way to predict these things, and that’s why the city needs to be mobile – to stay ahead of effects that would destroy even the warforged.
So. The Demon Wastes is closer to Mordor. It’s a land that has ALWAYS been evil. It’s occupied by hostile forces that may one day strike out at the Five Nations. It’s home to evil spirits and fierce creatures, but there have been people living there for centuries.
By contrast, the Mournland isn’t a kingdom of evil, home to some dark lord of legend. It’s an inexplicable disaster, the pride of Galifar snatched away and transformed. Almost any horror could be found within its borders, no matter how strange or illogical. It isn’t a frontier realm: it’s smack in the middle of the continent, and there’s always the fear that the mists will spread or that some danger will emerge to strike out on the border. It’s not an ancient mystery: it’s an extremely new one, calling out for people to explore it NOW.
Beyond that, the Mourning is the threat that brought the nations to the negotiating table. The Demon Wastes may be a source of danger, but these are old and lingering threats – the Mournland is a clear sign that the world remains at risk.
Anyhow, not the most succinct summary, but hopefully there’s a few things there to think about.