Lightning Round: Obyriths, Dhakaani Cruelty, and the Chamber

As time permits, I like to answer questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few questions that came up last month and didn’t make it into previous articles.

Currently, the Keeper of the Flame with the longest historical reign was Saren Rellek, who lead the church for 88 years. Would you say this is because they were a non-human Keeper? Is the tiefling sanctuary of Rellekor named after them?

Yes, on both counts. While it is tempting to suggest that Rellek was a tiefling, if there was a tiefling Keeper in power for nearly a century, I feel that tieflings would have a better reputation than they do. In my Eberron, Saren was a Khoravar. Half-elves make up a tenth of the population of Thrane, so it’s not a shocking shift; nonetheless, it may be due to their Khoravar heritage that they were especially concerned with oppressed minorities and helped establish the tiefling sanctuary that bears their name.

What are one or two examples of a major Chamber dragon operation currently operating in Sharn? The 3.5 Sharn: City of Towers book is very sparse on the Chamber.

The general idea of both the Chamber and the Lords of Dust is that they typically work through pawns—that any operation could be tied to the Chamber. Adventurers aren’t expected to run into a force they would recognize as the Chamber at 4th level. But they could get involved with the Boromar Clan / Daask conflict, and at a late stage discover that one of Saiden Boromar’s chief advisors is actually a shapechanged dragon. In the novella “Principles of Fire”, there’s a Chamber dragon on board the Lyrandar patriarch’s airship. What are they DOING? Likely, observing, and perhaps subtly pushing the patriarch in a particular direction. Essentially, my common approach with the Chamber isn’t that you run into a bunch of “Chamber goons” on a Chamber mission—it’s about running into people following what seems to be an entirely personal agenda (Boromar-Daask Gang War) and then discovering that it’s tied to the Chamber, because the Chamber has a Prophetic interest in a particular outcome of the war. This ties to the fact that the Chamber isn’t interested in wealth or power for their own sake; what they care about is ensuring that specific Prophetic events come to pass, which means that they can be working with ANY organization if it makes your story more interesting. A Chamber agent could be supporting the Daask/Boromar war. They could be posing as a member of the Aurum. They could be staging a terrorist attack on the Tain Gala this month and making sure the adventurers are in a position to stop an attack at the Gala the following month. The key for the adventurers is reaching a point where they have enough information to understand their motives—the Prophetic paths they are working to fulfill.

I’m running the Savage Tide adventure path, and what I’m most curious about are the obyriths. Obox-ob, Dagon, Pazuzu, Pale Night, etc. – how would you fit them into Eberron?

There’s a few ways you could go about it, depending which aspects of the STORY of the Obyriths are most important to you.

  • The simplest option would be to introduce the obyriths as the lords of shadow demiplanes, as described in this article. The main question would be what is drawing their attention to Eberron, as shadow fiends usually don’t and can’t leave their demiplanes. With that said, this is a fairly generic approach that doesn’t especially capture any of the existing lore that defines the obyriths and doesn’t give them a strong motive
  • Obyriths are described as being exceptionally ALIEN; their appearance alone could drive mortals insane. Both of these suggest that they are creatures from Xoriat. The daelkyr aren’t the only powerful entities from Xoriat. Perhaps the obyriths came to Wberron from Xoriat in the Age of Demons and fought with the overlords, and were imprisoned by the overlords long ago.
  • A third option—and the one I’d personally use—would be to combine these. Exploring Eberron presents the idea that the current incarnation of reality may not be the first one… that the meddling of the daelkyr can lead to a full reseting of reality. Exploring suggests that the Gith may be refugees from a previous incarnation of Eberron. An exotic option for the obyriths would be to say that they are fiends from a previous iteration of Khyber… That somehow they escaped into Xoriat and ultimately came to the current incarnation of reality, most likely finding shelter in a shadow demiplane. This preserves the idea that they are ALIEN—fiends from another version of reality, further altered by their time in Xoriat—and that they are ANCIENT, as they literally predate reality itself. It also means that their agenda is entirely separate from that of the overlords and the Prophecy itself. Is their goal to overthrow and replace the overlords? Is that even possible? Or are they just bitterly trying to survive? A side note is that since they don’t belong in this reality they wouldn’t have heart demiplanes, and while they are physically immortal, if they are destroyed they won’t return—which gives them a clear motive for laying low despite their vast power.

Were ancient Dhakaani really ruthless? Take torture and Grieving tree for example, how many of them were constructed? Were they seen as a horrible invention or as a useful and necessary tool? How are they seen by modern Kech Volaar, will they want to use/preserve or destroy them?

The Dhakaani were and are quite ruthless. Consider this section of Exploring Eberron:

The Dhakaani idea of ‘honor in victory’ is quite different from that of Dol Arrah and the people of the Five Nations. The Dhakaani prize victory and efficiency, both on and off the battlefield. Atcha comes from standing your ground against seemingly impossible odds and from displaying skill and discipline. There is honor in using cunning to defeat a superior foe, so guerilla warfare, ambushing a foe, and even assassination are acceptable tactics, if this is what muut requires. Dar must be ready to die for the empire—but when possible, it’s always better to kill for the empire.

What you call ruthless, Dhakaani might call efficient. A second note from Exploring Eberron:

The Dhakaani don’t practice slavery—but not because of compassion. Rather, they consider it inefficient to try to force their values and traditions on creatures who have no concept of muut and who don’t share the Uul Dhakaan. Thus, Dhakaani tradition has always been to drive enemies out of their territories, or if such exile is impossible, to kill them.

The Kech Volaar are the most flexible of the Keepers. Exploring Eberron notes:

Perhaps because of this, the Kech Volaar are also the most conciliatory of the Keeper clans. They are the most willing to interact with the gath’dar, both because they recognize the need to understand these possible enemies, and in the hopes that some form of coexistence may be possible. Like the Kech Uul, Volaar leader Tuura Dhakaan wonders if the Uul Dhakaan can expand to incorporate other creatures—if the empire can unite gath’dar as it does the dar. Despite these hopes, the Kech Volaar are devoted to the dar above all else. They are the Keepers of History, and they know the sacrifices their ancestors had to make and the bitter wars against the chaat’or and the taarn (elves). They are wise and willing to seek all paths to prosperity, but will never surrender the dream of the eternal empire.

Ultimately, the point is that the Dhakaani have no use for petty cruelty. They value EFFICIENCY above all. The Grieving Trees were a creation of a specific (albeit legendary) daashor and aren’t commonplace, but the point of the trees was to serve as a SYMBOL and as a warning. As to whether the Volaar would embrace them, I think it’s a simple calculus as to whether they feel use of the trees would strength their position among the Dar—using them is an assertion of power, as they were originally the tools of the Marhu—or whether they would horrify the chaat’oor and the gath’dar and interfere with their future plans.

The Dhakaani are a very alien culture, shaped by the Uul Dhakaan and thousands of years of martial discipline. They don’t see the world in the same way as humans of the Five Nations, and yes, their behavior will generally come across as ruthless; but ultimately, the best way to describe it is inhuman.

That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible!

Dragonmark: Priests, Krozen and Zerasha

July is quickly fading, but as time allows I want to answer a few questions posed by my Patreon supporters. This month, people asked about a pair of priests—High Cardinal Krozen of Thrane and Zerasha of Graywall.

Dealing with the Divine

Krozen and Zerasha are both powerful divine spellcasters. In third edition, Krozen was defined as a 12th level cleric of the Silver Flame, making him one of the most powerful clerics in canon Khorvaire. While never defined, Zerasha is supposed to be similar in her power—a priest respected and feared by a city of monsters and the mind flayer who governs it. Given that most priests in Khorvaire are adepts—or don’t even cast spells at all—I want players to feel how remarkable these individuals are when they encounter them. A powerful wizard is essentially a scientist, someone who uses logic and knowledge to break the laws of reality. A powerful divine caster is something else. Both Zerasha and Krozen are the chosen agents of cosmic powers. The Sovereigns and Six are omnipresent forces. The Shadow knows the evil that lurks in the hearts of mortals, and Zerasha is one of its chief agents. Krozen can command the dead to return to life or call celestials from the essence of the Silver Flame. We can debate the existence of the Sovereigns, but the Silver Flame is the force that stands between Eberron and the overlords, and Krozen is a conduit for its power. These aren’t just people who have learned how to perform magic tricks. They are the chosen agents of vast cosmic forces. If you’ll pardon the phrase, they are burdened with glorious purpose.

But how do you make the powerful priest feel different from a wizard or a prince? This is something I discuss at more length in this article. One of the key points is to separate the way divine NPCs cast spells from how player characters do it. We need the structure of the classes for player characters because we need tactical precision, and I’m fine to say that in combat, Krozen casts spells as a 12th level cleric. But outside of combat I don’t feel that he needs to engage with his magic in the same way as a player character. The most common divine spellcasters—adepts—function much like magewrights; they have a specific set of cantrips and spells they can cast and that’s all they can cast. A typical spellcasting priest might be able to cast thaumaturgy, light, and ceremony. There are specialist adepts—oracles who can cast divination, healers who can perform lesser restoration—but the oracle can’t just decide to become a healer in the morning. They have been granted a divine gift, and they can’t exchange it for another one. More powerful spellcasters like Zerasha and Krozen aren’t limited like this, but they also don’t call their divinity on the phone each morning and make spell requests. Their divine power source grants them the spells they need when they need them, provided the request is justified. Krozen doesn’t prepare zone of truth ahead of time, but if he formally demands you speak the truth in the light of the Flame, zone of truth happens. Essentially, his spells are selected on the fly to match the situation he finds himself in. But the contrast is that he doesn’t have the freedom a PC has to request any spell. The Flame may empower Krozen to raise someone from the dead or to smite them with a flame strike, but in spite of his effective level it’s not going to grant him the power to create undead or to cast contagion; these aren’t the tools of a righteous servant of the Flame, and if you DO see a Flame priest using such spells, it’s a clear sign that they are actually a servant of the Whispering Flame or a warlock hacking the Flame. Krozen may take actions we consider evil, but he believes his actions are righteous in the light of the Flame; he’s not drawing on malefic powers.

Divination is another important example. With the spellcasting power of a 12th level cleric, Krozen could technically cast commune three times a day, along with a batch of auguries. And that’s how things work for PCs. But Krozen doesn’t just have some magic hotline that he can dial three times per day. He can’t just call up Tira Miron and say “Does Boranel dye his hair? Yes? I KNEW it!” It’s not some sort of abstract, scientific tool that he can just use for whatever random, trivial detail he wants to know. But the flip side is that he may simply receive information that he needs—that he can receive divine visions. Even when he doesn’t cast augury, he may suddenly KNOW that a decision he’s about to make could lead to disaster. Even without commune, he might KNOW the truth about a situation. This is especially relevant for Zerasha, because part of what defines the Shadow is dangerous secrets. Consider this description of the Shadow from this article:

As the dark side of Aureon, the Shadow is also the Sovereign of Knowledge… but specifically the things you shouldn’t know. The Shadow knows the evil that lurks in the hearts of mortals. It knows who killed your parents. It knows what your lover really thinks about you. And it knows secrets of magic that Aureon won’t share… techniques that can provide power, but at a cost.

So It’s not that Zerasha sits down and says “I want to know secrets about this player character” and casts commune or some other divination spell; it’s that when the players come before her, she simply DOES know who killed the paladin’s parents and why the rogue murdered their partner, because that’s part of what it means to be the voice of the Shadow.

The short form is that when dealing with NPCs who are powerful divine spellcasters, I want them to FEEL like they are conduits to powers far greater than they are. When Krozen demands that you speak the truth, zone of truth happens. When he barks out an order, it may become a command, because that’s the power that flows through him. I want the powerful priest to feel larger then life, because at the end of the day they are the conduits for something that IS larger than life.

Now, reading all this, you might say “But I thought Eberron was the setting where we don’t know if the gods even exist.” We know that deities don’t walk the world in Eberron. You will never have a chance to punch Aureon in the face. But we know that divine power sources exist. We know that priests have been drawing on the POWER of Aureon for tens of thousands of years, and that in part because of this, most people believe divine forces exist. They may argue about details; the Cazhaak interpretation of the Dark Six is quite different from how they’re depicted in the Pyrinean Creed. But most people believe in SOME form of divinity, and part of the reason for that is the fact that divine magic exists.

With all of this in mind, you might say “If that’s how you handle NPC priests, why don’t you deal with player character clerics in the same way?” I offer some suggestions in that direction in this article. But fifth edition embraces the idea that NPCs and PCs don’t have to follow the same rules. Part of being a player character is having flexibility and tactical control. It’s about having the ability to make choices. I’ve played campaigns in which divine characters CHOSE to give me more control over their spells—embracing the idea that the powers were gifts they didn’t fully control—but that was a choice they made that fit the story of that character. But one of the fundamental principles of Eberron is that player characters are remarkable, and I have no problem with them having a greater degree of versatility and precision than most other servants of the divine.

Having worked through that, let’s talk about the two specific priests that people have asked about…

Who is High Cardinal Krozen of Thrane?

Our blessed child is the Keeper of the Flame and shows us all the path to the light. But I am the keeper of the nation, and if I must toil in the darkness to ensure its prosperity, so be it.

High Cardinal Krozen

People have lots of questions about Cardinal Krozen of Thrane. What’s his first name? Does he realize he’s evil? Does he believe in a greater good—or for that matter, does he even believe in the Silver Flame? What makes him more important than the other 11 High Cardinals of the Church? These are all good questions. I’ve always liked Krozen, but my vision of him is quite different from how he’s evolved in canon sources. I know what I originally planned for him when we first created the character, and that’s how I use him, so I’ll lay that out here. Keep in mind that this directly contradicts multiple canon sources (which, admittedly, contradict themselves on some points). This is MY interpretation and I am not going to reconcile it with what other authors have done with the character; it’s up to you to decide which version you prefer.

My original vision of High Cardinal Thrane was loosely inspired by Cardinal Richelieu as depicted in The Three Musketeers—a ruthless man who is engaged in sly intrigues, but who is nonetheless an extremely capable leader, perhaps moreso than the king the protagonists serve. It was always my vision that Cardinal Krozen was devoted to Thrane and that he performs his duties exceptionally well—that he is a brilliant strategist and a charismatic orator. But this is tied to the idea that he truly believes that he knows what is best for the nation. The basic dictate of the Silver Flame is to protect the innocent from supernatural evil. Where Jaela recognizes that this applies to ALL innocents, regardless of their faith or nationality, Krozen believes that you aren’t innocent unless you’re a Thrane and a servant of the faith, and don’t oppose him. He DOES fight to protect the innocent—but only those HE decides are innocent.

So I see Cardinal Krozen as a remarkable man—one of the player characters of his generation. He’s human and I see him as being about fifty years old. The details of his youth—and, in fact, his first name—aren’t generally known; the general story is that he lived on the Aundairian border and that the Flame granted him the power to perform great deeds, first in the defense of his village and then as a templar. He was always charismatic and intelligent, but beyond that, his divine power was always remarkable; when he called on the Flame, he gained the power to smite his foes. In his early twenties he rose out of the templars and into the hierarchy of the church, turning his gifts to leadership behind the scenes rather than fighting on the battlefield. From there, his star rose and rose; those who opposed him were either won over by his charisma or driven from his path, one way or another.

Part of the core idea of Krozen is that he represents the danger of Thrane becoming a theocracy—that in doing so it drags the church into the management of temporal matters and political concerns. The idea of Thrane is that Jaela Daran represents the pure ideals of the faith—while Cardinal Krozen deals with political realities. Again, Jaela does believe that “protect the innocent” applies to all people—that Krozen believes that it can only be applied to the faithful and to Thranes. It’s not that he is a vile, selfish person; but he has blended his faith with his devotion to his nation and places the good of Thrane over all others. Beyond this, Krozen very much has a Chosen One mentality. He possesses immense divine power, and in his mind this proves his righteousness. He believes he was given this power to serve the interests of Thrane, and the fact that he still wields that power proves that he is right to do so. He will crush others who get in his way—even other priests or templars—because he believes, again, that those who oppose him aren’t innocent.

In considering all this, take a moment to think about the Shadow in the Flame. There are those—the Whispering Flame cultists—who knowingly choose to serve Bel Shalor. But the true power of the Shadow in the Flame is its ability to piggyback on the Voice of the Flame and to pour poison in the ears of the truly faithful. Bel Shalor loves to erode empathy and to convince people to do evil when they only seek to do good. The Shadow in the Flame reveled in the suffering caused by the Silver Crusade, and Bel Shalor undoubtedly sees Cardinal Krozen as a valuable tool. The question for the DM to decide is how much of a hold does Bel Shalor have over the Cardinal? In MY Eberron, Krozen KNOWS the dangers posed by the Shadow of the Flame; all the faithful do. And with that in mind, he does his best to resist those impulses; he knows that he does questionable things (like, you know, torture and murder…) but he truly believes that he is acting for the greater good and that he’s NOT a tool of the Shadow in the Flame. But in your campaign you could decide that he HAS fallen prey to Bel Shalor’s whispers and no longer realizes the evil he is doing… or even go further and decide that he is a priest of the Whispering Flame. Personally I prefer to follow the shades-of-grey model, to say that while Krozen does evil things, he only does them when pursuing the interests of Thrane—that he always believes his actions are justified. I like the idea that Krozen knows he walks a dark path, but that he believes it is the path the Flame has set him on, and that at the end of the day he is protecting the innocent—even if he has had to sacrifice his own innocence to do it.

Now, some people may be say “That’s all fine, but who IS he?” Krozen is one of the high cardinals of Thrane. Per the original Eberron Campaign Setting…

This group of powerful church leaders administers both the workings of the church and the functions of the government. In theory, the cardinals answer to the Keeper of the Flame. In practice, they run the church and the government, only dealing with the Keeper on issues that require divine attention and interaction with the Voice of the Flame. The cardinals believe that they know best when it comes to running the government and the church, and they leave the Keeper to deal with the well-being of the spirit of the nation. This arrangement has led to problems between the Council and the Keeper in the past, but the current Keeper seems interested more in divine and spiritual matters than the intricacies of secular administration.

There may be twelve High Cardinals, but Krozen is the effective leader of the Council—and thus, of Thrane. If you have a divine problem, talk to Jaela. But if you’re looking into the deployment of Thrane troops or about getting more resources for Rellekor, it’s Krozen who can get things done. The general idea is that Krozen is in many ways the opposite of Jaela. Where the Keeper is compassionate, the Cardinal is ruthless. The Cardinal is a master of political intrigue, while Jaela prefers honest dealing. Jaela wants what’s best for all innocents; Krozen cares only for Thrane.

The final thing I’ll call about about Krozen is this: If there’s twelve high cardinals, why is he the leader? What makes him special? The short answer is that what makes him special is that he IS special. Again, not all priests are spellcasters at all, and in a world where everyday magic goes to 3rd level, a 12th level spellcaster is remarkable. He can raise the dead! Those who oppose him are struck down by flame strikes! You’ve seen him shape celestials from the pure power of the Flame! And as I said, while I don’t just let him cast commune three times a day, he hears the Voice of the Flame in ways that others do not (and, of course, potentially the Shadow in the Flame as well). There’s surely other spellcasters among the cardinals, but Krozen stands out; if you look to the 3.5 statistics, he’s notably a more powerful spellcaster than the high priest of the Host and Archierophant Ythana in Sharn: City of Towers. Power alone isn’t everything, but the whole idea is that this power is matched with passion and charisma—that just like a player character, Krozen is remarkable. With this in mind, he doesn’t command the Council of Cardinals, but he has won the loyalty of the majority of its members and thus is the EFFECTIVE leader of the council. In my opinion, there’s four cardinals who are utterly devoted to him; three who believe he’s doing what’s best for Thrane; and four who don’t support him. Of these four, all believe that the Keeper shows the proper path for the nation and that Krozen’s actions are concerning; one or two may have deeper concerns, or believe that he is serving the Shadow in the Flame. So Krozen DOESN’T have absolute control of the council, but he’s effectively the leader.

Krozen as a Villain

As I’ve just spent a lot of time insisting that Krozen believes he’s acting for the good of Thrane and that he is an effective leader, you might wonder if I actually see him as a villain. I do, generally—just a villain with many layers. He performs evil deeds in pursuit of the greater good, and more than that, he is only concerned with the greater good of THRANE. When I use Krozen, I want it to be clear why people support him. I want Thranes, in particular, to feel conflicted because Krozen IS good at his job—that if the nation was guided purely by the idealistic Jaela, it would be easy prey for the machinations of Kaius, the Royal Eyes of Aundair, and the Dark Lanterns. Krozen is effective; but is that enough to justify his methods? And IS he a tool of the Shadow in the Flame, even if he refuses to see it?

Zerasha, the Voice of the Shadow

You think you know why you’re here. You think we have to be enemies. But that’s the voice of your petty and jealous Sovereigns, who fear what you could become if you follow the paths I could show you.

Zerasha of Graywall

The medusa Zerasha is a priest of the Shadow in the city of Graywall. She’s mentioned in a Dragon article, which says…

The street ends at the Eye of the Shadow, a small windowless temple formed from black stone. The medusa priestess Zerasha holds court here. A fearsome combatant and skilled ritual caster, Zerasha is the most influential voice in Graywall after Xorchylic; the people of the town have come to trust her oracular gifts. At the moment, she is an ally of the Daughters of Sora Kell, but her first loyalty is to the Shadow and to her own warlord, the Queen of Stone. Should there ever be a civil war in Graywall, the black-scaled medusa will be a force with which to be reckoned. 

Backdrop: Graywall, Dragon 368

That’s the only canon information that exists on her. Since I wrote that article, people have asked: What is the priestess Zerasha’s relationship with Xorchylic? What are her goals, and what might cause those goals to become so misaligned with Xorchylic’s as to cause open conflict?

In my mind, Zerasha is truly devoted to her faith and to her Queen, in that order. As described in this article, she believes that the Shadow is the guide and guardian of those creatures followers of the Sovereigns consider monsters. Beyond this, she is what the article describes as a mentor. Acting on behalf of the Shadow, she seeks to help the faithful achieve their ambitions—even if that means following the darkest possible paths to do so. Beyond that, the Shadow is the Sovereign of secrets. As described above, she is an oracle—not as gifted in this regard as Sora Teraza, but certainly the most powerful oracle in Graywall. She knows secrets. Having said that, as I called out above, her knowledge comes from the Shadow and she doesn’t know things until she needs to know them. When she meets a player character, the Shadow may tell her their secrets; but it’s not like she just randomly knows everyone’s secrets all the time. And again, if the Shadow shares a secret with Zerasha, it’s so she can DO something with that secret.

So in terms of her goals, I believe that Zerasha’s goals are first and foremost to offer spiritual guidance to the people of Graywall and to help them achieve their true potential. Beneath that, her goals are whatever tasks the Shadow sets before her; it’s quite common for her to feel that there is a particular individual the Shadow wishes her to focus on, someone who needs to be guided on the proper path. And beneath that, her loyalty is to her queen, the medusa Sheshka, and to the people of Cazhaak Draal.

Her relationship with Xorchyllic largely depends on what the DM decides Xorchyllic is truly up to. As long as Xorchyllic is pursuing the greater good of Graywall and Droaam, Zerasha will support him. But we’ve called out that the Flayer Guard of Droaam serve the interests of the governor first and the common folk second. If Xorchyllic is somehow oppressing or harming a portion of the city in pursuit of his personal agenda, that could bring him into conflict with Zerasha. Ultimately, the question is what is the interest of the Shadow? If the Shadow supports Xorchyllic and wants the illithid to achieve its ambitions, Zerasha could work closely with the governor. On the other hand, if the Shadow is most interested in helping a lowly kobold on the Street of Shadows achieve her ambitions of overthrowing Xorchyllic and becoming a new warlord, than Zerasha would oppose the mind flayer. The same is true for player characters. What does the Shadow think of them? It could be that it favors their enemies, in which case Zerasha will oppose them. Or it could be that the Shadow has an interest in one of the adventurers and wants to show them the path to power—in which case, Zerasha who seek to serve as their mentor. But again, a mentor of the Shadow will always lead you down dangerous paths…

That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible.

IFAQ: Talenta Dinosaurs

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters.

In what clever ways do the Talenta halflings utilize their dinosaurs besides using them as beasts of burden?

The halflings of the Talenta Plains are what I call a Wide Primal society. They have never pursued the arcane science that defines the Five Nations, in part because they’ve never felt a need to do so. The Talenta have a path of magic that they use to solve their problems; they work with spirits, employing both druid magic and fey pacts. So while they don’t have arcane magewrights, they do have widespread adepts and gleaners who employ magic as part of everyday life. Like magewrights, Talenta gleaners generally know a few cantrips and can cast a few spells as rituals—typically druid spells, though those that deal with fey spirits often work with enchantment and illusion.

With this in mind, consider that the following spells are “Everyday Magic” in the Talenta Plains: animal friendship, animal messenger, beast bond, beast sense, find familiar and speak with animals. When the Talenta talk about having a bond with the spirits of their mounts, it’s because many of them literally do. Even when you’re dealing with beasts of burden, halflings will usually talk to their beasts. We’re still talking about dinosaurs, so they are limited by their intelligence; but there’s a general sense of partnership between the Talenta and their dinosaurs.

An important thing to keep in mind is that the spells and cantrips used by NPC magewrights (or adepts or gleaners) don’t always work like their PC counterparts! Often they are more limited; when Talenta gleaners use the spells mentioned above, they typically can only cast them on reptiles, which is one reason they work so closely with dinosaurs; their magical traditions have evolved to work with them over time. However, these specialized rituals can be more effective in other ways, such as having a longer duration. The spirit rider is an important form of Talenta gleaner; they employ a ritual that combines the effects of beast bond and beast sense, allowing the gleaner to enter an extended trance in which they perceive the world through the senses of their dinosaur companion and can guide it telepathically. Note that this doesn’t dominate the beast; it simply allows telepathic communication. It takes a long time for a spirit rider to establish a necessary connection to a dinosaur, and they can’t just ride a new beast on the spur of the moment. Spirit riders who work with glidewings and dartwings serve as scouts and couriers; but spirit riders often also work with larger dinosaurs—hammertails, bloodstrikers, threehorns—to guide them while traveling or performing heavy labor. As a random point: most of the everyday magic of the Plains works specifically with reptiles, and one of the reason the Talenta use tribex as livestock is because they don’t talk to the tribex.

So throwing out a few random ways dinosaurs are used…

  • Bloodstrikers are large burrowing herbivores. Many Talenta tribes have a single bloodstriker, which will use its burrowing abilities to help establish camps. In Gatherhold, bloodstrikers are used to maintain latrines, and as living mining tools. The caustic blood of the beast is also harvested.
  • Dartwings, typically just called darts, are small pterosaurs; they use the hawk stat block. Dartwings are the primary messengers of the Talenta, and they are also used by scouts—both full spirit riders who may spend hours watching the world from above, and hunters who may just use speak with animals or beast sense to get information from their companions.
  • Glidewings and soarwings are larger pterosaurs. While often used as flying mounts for hunters and warriors, spirit riders can use them to scout and they are also often used by couriers, swiftly transporting goods between tribes.
  • Many large herbivores are used as beasts of burden, but hammertails (Ankylosaurs) are often used as mobile homes; a family can make its home in howdah tent on the back of the beast. few tribes have thunderherders (diplodocus)—among other things, they require a great deal of food—but those that do often use the herder for their leader’s tent, leading to the phrase that someone important “rides the thunder.”
  • Carvers, clawfeet and swiftclaws (velociraptors) are all used for hunting and for defense. Swiftclaws are used for pest control. Along with the fastieth, clawfeet are often seen as a simple form of mobility enhancement; it’s very common for a hunter to ride their fastieth or clawfoot in situations where most people would dismount; the rider considers themselves to be a single entity with their mount.
  • Scampers or scamps are a tiny form of fastieth, and can use the weasel stat block. they have nimble foreclaws and are often used as assistant animals, fetching small things or performing simple tasks.

These are just a few examples. The main thing to keep in mind is that through spirit riders and general use of speak with animals, the Talenta can get their dinosaurs to perform precision tasks that would otherwise be difficult or impossible. Large dinosaurs are used as beasts of burden, but also perform a wide range of heavy labor—effectively serving as living cranes and bulldozers. Within Gatherhold, you have a few high chambers that can only be reached if a thunderherder lifts you up.

So dinosaurs help with scouting, hunting, transportation, communication, and heavy labor; hammertails serve as housing! Dinosaurs are even used as instruments. Three-horn bellows can be heard across a great distance, and are often used for signaling purposes. Hammertail drums may be used in somber rituals, while dartwing choirs support other musicians. Scale singers blend the talents of spirit rider and bard, riding a dinosaur and singing with its voice. Dinosaurs are worked into sporting events as well; the Talentans play a mounted sport called Dalasci that is somewhat like aggressive polo, and scamp races are a common basis for gambling.

What kind of dinosaur would be the typical livestock of one of the nomad tribes?

Dinosaurs don’t produce milk and generally aren’t raised as food; both of these are the role of the tribex. So most tribes have a herd of tribex. Beyond that, tribes often breed a specific type of dinosaur, which they will then trade with other tribes. So most tribes only have a few hammertails, but there’s a tribe that has a breeding population of hammertails, a tribe that breeds threehorns, a few that breed clawfeet, and so on. The point is that there is no “typical” dinosaur livestock; it’s a choice that shapes the tribe, and a hammertail-breeding tribe will be quite different from the tribe with a host of clawfeet.

Do Talenta halflings eat dinosaur eggs? Would they raise dinosaurs to harvest their eggs?

There’s no taboo against eating unfertilized dinosaur eggs; these are celebrated as a gift from a friend. However, keep in mind that dinosaurs don’t lay eggs like chickens do. Some species don’t lay unfertilized eggs. Others do, but only at a specific time of year—typically Nymm to Lharvion. These are generally times of feasting, and for celebrating the dinosaurs that share these gifts. But they don’t keep dinosaurs JUST for the eggs; dinosaurs are essentially members of the tribe who perform a useful function, and the eggs are a bonus. In my opinion, the only Talenta dinosaurs that lay unfertilized eggs across the entire year would be scamps; so scamp eggs are certainly part of the Talenta diet.

Are there any Talenta tribes that use necromancy?

Certainly! The Tolashcara (“Keepers of Bones that Rustle and Moan”) tribe guard a manifest zone to Mabar in the Plains and draw on its power to animate the dead. They believe that by using its power as they do, they keep the hungry spirits from venturing further afield to prey on innocents. Some Tolashcara are drawn to pursue undead threats elsewhere in the Plains or in the world, and a small group of Tolashcara halflings patrol the edge of the Boneyard (the graveyard of dragons) hoping to keep the dead quiet. So overall, they are a peaceful and benevolent force; on the other hand, you could always have a new leader rise up among the Tolashcara with a more malevolent agenda.

That’s all I have time for today, but add any interesting ways you’ve used dinosaurs in your campaign in the comments! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who make these articles possible.

Dread Metrol: Into The Mists

The wolves of Karrnath howl at our gates. The vile necromancers of the north have brought their armies of the dead. But we are Cyrans. We do not give in to fear. What our dreams imagine, our hands create, and we have dreamt a dream of victory. It will take all that we have to give—even our very bones, so that the Karrns cannot turn our dead against us. But I know the Cyran heart, and I know that we will prevail. If you’re willing to wield a sword, report to the Vermishard of War; otherwise, report to the Vadalis Kennels for processing.

—Queen Dannel ir’Wynarn

In 994 YK, the Mourning swept across the nation of Cyre. The glorious capital of Metrol was one of the first cities to fall to the Mourning. But what if Metrol wasn’t destroyed in the Mourning? What if the city was lost in the mists, cut off from the rest of Eberron ever since that day? What if it has been under siege by what seem to be endless undead forces? How would Metrol survive? What would Queen Dannel do in pursuit of victory?

These are the questions posed in Dread Metrol: Into The Mists. We describe the book as a crossover with Ravenloft, and if you’ve read Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft you’ll recognize the core ideas of the Domain of Dread and the dark lord Dannel. But you don’t need to know anything about Ravenloft to explore Dread Metrol. All you need to know is that it’s a city that’s fallen through the cracks of reality and now is trapped in an endless siege. It’s a vision of Eberron where House Vadalis has weaponized wererats and where Cannith corpse collectors comb the city looking for spare parts. You can use it as a deadly detour for existing characters, adventurers who are torn from their regular world; or you can use it as the foundation for a new campaign, creating characters who could only emerge from this dark crucible.

Dread Metrol is a 110-page PDF that comes with a 10 high-resolution maps. The first half of the book is a deep dive into the city of Metrol, discussing the layout of the city and the forces that wield power within it. This also contains a section discussing adventurers from Metrol, whether as part of a Metrol campaign or as an unusual background for unusual characters. Do you want to play a Reborn halfling stitched together and animated by Jorasco chirugeons? Metrol is the place for it! It also contains the Mastermaker, an artificer archetype that replaces their own flesh with wood and steel. The second half of the PDF is “The Mourning After,” an adventure by Andrew Bishkinskyi set in Dread Metrol that can take characters from 1st to 4th level; the hooks provided can pull characters to Metrol, or the adventure can be used as the beginning of a campaign set in the city. In addition to all of this, Dread Metrol comes with a separate, 32-page player-friendly PDF that provides general information about Metrol without spoiling the deepest, darkest secrets!

The short form is that if Dread Metrol brings the themes of Ravenloft to Eberron and can serve as a bridge between the settings. But if you know nothing about Ravenloft, you can still explore the horrors of war in Metrol. And if you’re planning a Last War campaign, the sourcebook provides a snapshot of a city that now only exists as a ruin and a queen lost to the Mourning.

Dread Metrol: Into The Mists is a platinum seller on the DM’s Guild. Check it out now!

DREAD METROL Q&A

Previously you’ve suggested that Barovia could be a pre-Galifar Karrnath domain, and Strahd could be an ancient Karrnathi warlord. But the section on Mabar in Exploring Eberron suggests that the Hinterland consumes fragments within years or decades; how do you reconcile this with a pre-Galifar fragment that would be over a thousand years old?

The short answer is that while both can be found in the Hinterlands of Mabar, there’s crucial differences between a typical planar fragment and a domain of dread. The fragments are essentially being digested by Mabar, after which they become part of the plane. But a domain of dread isn’t just being digested; it is specifically designed to imprison and torment a darklord. The question is why. The most logical answer is that it is is how new Dark Powers are created—that somehow a darklord can evolve to become one of the Dark Powers. We see an example of this in the Queen of All Tears; for some time, she might have been a darklord imprisoned in a Hinterlands domain.

So essentially, standard fragments are digested over a period of years, but domains of dread exist for as long as it takes to complete the journey of the darklord, whether they ascend to the ranks of the Dark Power or somehow find release.

Dread Metrol says that Queen Dannel was crowned in 943 YK and was 17 years old at that time. So she’s 73 years old?

That’s correct! those dates and her age were established in Five Nations and Forge of War. If that seems surprisingly old, keep in mind that (as seen on the cover) Dannel has made construct improvements to herself; beyond that, she may well receive experimental Jorasco treatments that limit the effects of aging.

How would you integrate the haunted lightning rail—Cyre 1313—from Van Richten’s Guide with Dread Metrol?

The two are different domains, and part of the theme of Dread Metrol is its absolute isolation. So by default, I wouldn’t integrate the two. However, there is a lightning rail station in Metrol; if I was running a Dread Metrol campaign and was ready to change things up, I might have Cyre 1313 pull into the station. I would expect there to be a flood of people trying to get to the train; how will the adventurers get to the front of that line, and what intrigues might carry onto the train when it leaves?

Falkovnia in Van Richten’s Guide is a “Domain Besieged by the Dead.” Is Dread Metrol basically the same thing?

There are certainly similarities between the two domains; both explore the horrors of war and an extended undead siege. The primary differences are the intensity of the siege and the application of arcane science—both as employed by the attacking forces and the people of Metrol. In Falkovnia, criminals are impaled; in Metrol, they’re taken to the Vadalis Kennels or given to Cannith as spare parts. In Falkovnia, new zombies show up on the night of the new moon. In Metrol, new forces emerge from the mists each night, and they may bring mystical siege weapons and arcane bombardment. You can wander the ruined countryside in Falkovnia; in Metrol, the city is the domain, and all that lies beyond the walls are blasted battlefields.

So the two domains explore a number of overlapping fiends—but aside from the possibility of fighting some zombies, an adventure in Metrol will be quite different from one in Falkovnia.

Will this be available in print?

Not at the moment. We’re looking into this, but there are certain restrictions—and also, print on demand costs have increased dramatically.

That’s all for now! You can find Dread Metrol: Into The Mists on the DM’s Guild.

Gameplay: DM Improvisation

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Often those questions are tied to Eberron, but sometimes there’s a more general topic. Case in point…

As a world builder myself and a long time improviser, making things up on the fly to adapt to situations is the environment I *live* for and it’s made my storytelling in this game really step up. I’m writing more than I’ve ever written before in order to keep up with my players story as well as be a few steps ahead. While I know it can be a matter of taste, which do you like to do more as a DM; prepare for the most likely situations but expect the unexpected or completely roll with the punches because you’re so familiar with the world you’ve created?

I love the collaborative element of TTRPGs. I may know all the secrets and where the action will go, but I love that I don’t know which hooks the adventurers will latch onto. I have an adventure that I’ve run almost sixty times, and it’s still fun for me to run again because there’s always something that comes up in each session that I’ve never seen before. I love to see players come up with creative solutions to problems, and I’m always going to encourage that, because that’s what makes it interesting for me; if they followed an entirely predictable path, if I knew exactly how the story was going to end, it wouldn’t be that interesting to run it twice, let alone sixty times.

With that said, fun fact: I’ve never published that adventure I’ve run sixty times, because I’ve never written it down in such a way that anyone else could run it. The adventure is set in the city of Graywall, which I know like the back of my hand. The adventurers are trying to locate a fugitive. Because I know the city so well, I don’t have to have every option written down. If the adventurers say “We want to talk to a Brelish expatriate” or “Who sells refined dragonshards in bulk?” I know the answers to those questions, and I can freestyle a quick encounter with the Tharashk shard salesman. However, I also have a few anchor points that I know the adventure will hit. Whatever path they take to get there, I know the adventurers will have to deal with at least two of three specific people/places… and I know where the fugitive is and what they will find when they get there. So I have those four scenes prepared ahead of time—with statistics for the combat encounters, traps and treasures, and the like. But I never know which three of these four scenes I’ll use in a particular run of the game.

The same thing is true when I’m running my Patreon campaign on Threshold. In session 2, the adventurers were investigating the disappearance of local kobolds. I knew where they would end up—that they’d need to investigate the farmstead of Kaine Agran, and that doing so would lead them to a sinister chamber of skulls hidden in the mountains. I had both of those scenes plotted out, complete with statistics for the threats they would face. But I didn’t know how they would GET to the farmstead. And case in point, when I ran the adventure twice, one group of players focused on dealing with the Brelish veterans in town, while the other group centered their investigation on the kobold community. But I knew that both of those were options, and I knew that I could improvise a scene in either direction—because I had an established cast on NPCs in each location and generally knew how they could help.

Meanwhile, the fourth Threshold session—the first hour of which is available here—was set at a festival. I had five specific scenes planned at the festival—Kobolds dancing around a fruit idol; a tiefling missionary approaches one of the characters; an illusionary shooting gallery; a baking contest; and an unexpected confrontation at the final feast. But I didn’t know which of these would catch the players’ interest or how long each might take; they could have just shurgged and walked by the fruity kobolds, or they could join in the ceremony (which they did). So I had a handful of established NPCs there at the festival I was prepared to deploy. The adventurers could have been approached by the priest who was organizing the festival, or caught up in a drunken brawl; I knew I could fill space if I needed to. And taking the shooting gallery—the structure was that the PC wandslinger had to face five illusionary opponents. I had each of the other players describe one of these illusionary opponents—so even though it was a scene revolving around a single PC, each player got to be involved—and then when it got to the fifth opponent I revealed it to be an ambush by a gang of halfling hitmen (a combat which then involved everyone). The main point is that I’d planned how the scene would end—I had stats for the squad of halfling hitmen—but I didn’t know what the players would come up with for the four first targets, and it was fun for me to see what they thought up.

So MY preferred style is to work within an area that has some flexibility, with a number of concrete scenes or locations that drive the story and that I know will be involved: I know that sooner or later the adventurers will get to the Chamber of Skulls, or they will get to the confrontation at the final feast. But I’m prepared for them to take an unexpected path to reach that point, because I know the cast and locations around them and I can improvise secondary scenes. This doesn’t work with every story; if I’m doing a serious dungeon crawl where resources are limited and the players’ choice of which rooms to explore matters, I’m going to carefully map it out ahead of time. If the adventurers are going to a new location where I don’t have a well-established supporting cast to fall back on, I’ll plan things more carefully. But I personally like the middle ground—not planning every detail or leaving everything to chance, but building an adventure around a few scenes I know will occur, with flexibility to improvise around them.

How do you handle times when the players bring about a situation that you really ought to know how to handle, but in the heat of the moment can’t imagine what to do next?

I try not to be caught in this situation. While I don’t plan for every contingency, I do prepare notes ahead of time and think about characters and locations that might turn up—for example, the idea that a drunken brawl at the festival would be a simple way to fill a hole if the players moved too swiftly through the content I’d prepared. But while I do my best, it’s impossible to prepare for every contingency. Sometimes a player asks a question you just don’t know the answer to—”This is a textile factory, right? Are they doing mule spinning or ring spinning?“—while other times you may just have had a long day and find yourself out of ideas. When I do find myself in that situation, my standard approach is ask the players for the answer. First of all, in the case of the person asking about an obscure subject, given that they asked the question they probably know what they WANT the answer to be. I don’t know the difference between mule spinning and ring spinning, but THEY do, an d this gives them an opportunity to educate the group and the answer that they think makes sense. And beyond this, at the end of the day, it’s a collaborative story. Perhaps the players are in a stagecoach and it gets blown off a bridge, and you suddenly realize you have no idea how they’re going to survive. Turn it to them: How are you going to survive this? Depending on the situation, this could be a metagame discussion, where you freeze the action and talk to the PLAYERS—”How do we get out of this mess?” On the other hand, I could also present it as a simple skill check to players. “You’re going to take 50 points of damage when the coach strikes the bottom of the ravine. What do you do to survive this?” I’d evaluate their answer and either have them make a skill check (reducing the damage taken by the result of the skill check, or perhaps by double the result for a great idea) or assign an arbitrary value to an interesting, non-skill based idea. The main point is that ideally, what everyone in the group wants is a satisfying story; there’s nothing wrong with occasionally asking the players to fill in the blanks. Looking back to the textile question, I could go research textile factories to find out a good answer—but if the player already has that expertise and knows what the smart answer would be, why not use that expertise?

If you have questions about this approach or want to share how YOU do things, add your comments below! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible.

My Summer Streams!

Currently I’m taking part in two live-play streams of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. The two campaigns are very different; one you can watch, the other you can potentially participate in! Here’s the story.

THRESHOLD

Threshold is an Eberron campaign I’m running as DM. It’s set in a small town that lies between Droaam and Breland, the setting of my upcoming Frontiers of Eberron sourcebook, and I’m using the plots and places I’m creating for that sourcebook in the campaign. Threshold is tied to my Patreon. The story is ongoing and it involves a consistent cast of ten player characters, but each session only involves five of those characters—and the players change each session, being drawn from among the patrons. Those patrons who don’t get a seat at the table still have a chance to influence the story through polls and discussion on the Threshold Discord. Patrons have access to both audio and video recordings of the sessions, but I’m not sharing these with the general public. However, if you want a sense of what Threshold is all about, I’ve just posted a one-hour excerpt from a recent session. I love how Threshold has evolved through the collaboration of the patrons, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next! So if you join my Patreon (at the Threshold tier) you get access both to the past episodes, the campaign website, the Threshold Discord, and the chance to play in a future session… As well as helping to support the articles I post on this site!

FUGUE STATE

In addition to running games, I occasionally like to play games with my friends. Back in 2020 I started playing in a weekly online campaign with a few of my friends in Portland—Colin Meloy and Chris Funk of the Decemberists, Charlie Chu from Oni Press, and Patti King from the Shins. Conveniently, Charlie—the only one of that line-up who isn’t a musician—is the one playing the bard. DM Han Duong is running us through Rime of the Frostmaiden, and after thirty sessions we thought “Hey, why don’t we let other folks watch?” Fugue State happens from 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM Pacific Time every Wednesday, on the Twogether Studios Twitch channel. We’re also working to raise money for local charities; this month we’re raising funds for the Black Resilience Fund. So it remains to be seen if we’ll save the eight remaining towns of Icewind Dale (seven if you leave out Targos, which is a garbage town for garbage people), but we can do a little good regardless. I’m only a player in Fugue State—it’s not set in Eberron and I’m just along for the ride—but if you want to take a peek at the game I’m playing in, drop by!

THE ZONECAST SUMMER

The final stream I want to mention isn’t a D&D stream at all, and I’m not actually a regular! However, Twogether Studios is sponsoring the ZoneCast, a livestream in which Gnomedic and guests play my game The Adventure Zone: Bureau of Balance! The ZoneCast will be happening throughout the summer on the Twogether Studios channel, every Tuesday at 6 PM Pacific Time! So if you’d like to see what TAZ:BoB is all about and possibly win some fabulous prizes, check that out!

Q&A

In Threshold, players take control of pre-existing characters. Do you feel that players get into character easily or do they struggle at times? I’ve had guest players take the role of pre-established NPCs before, and it didn’t always mesh well.

So far it’s gone great, and I really enjoy seeing what each new player brings to their character. When players apply to play in a session, they request a specific character; it’s not random, and people know what they’re getting into. The campaign website has detailed backgrounds of each character and their past exploits. And this includes a section of roleplaying notes; the image below is from Rolan Harn, the former Sentinel Marshal.

Think of these as expanded Bonds and Flaws. A player doesn’t HAVE to abide by these restrictions, but if they play these up they may receive Inspiration or gain advantage on an action; conversely, if they go against the character’s nature, they may suffer disadvantage or other penalties. So an oathbreaking, cruel Rolan will effectively have very bad luck—whereas if you play up Rolan’s honesty and integrity, you’ll have a better chance of success.

That’s all for now! I hope to see you at a future stream!

IFAQ: War Crimes and Potatoes

I’ve been traveling and haven’t had much time to write. But whenever I have time, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s two that came up in June on clearly related topics: War crimes and potatoes.

What counted as a war crime during the Last War?

Looking to the definition of war crimes in our world is a good place to start. One of the key points is that in principle, the Last War was being fought with the intent of reuniting Galifar. As a result, causing unnecessary harm to civilians or civilian infrastructure was definitely an issue – consider the Geneva Convention’s censure of “taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.” NOT JUSTIFIED BY MILITARY NECESSITY is the key point there. It’s understood that there will be a certain amount of collateral damage in military operations—but are we talking about justified destruction or about wanton, extreme actions that inflict avoidable harm on the civilian population?

Likewise, the development or deployment or weapons of war that would cause unnecessary suffering or collateral damage was also censured. Again, the key is MILITARY NECESSITY: is the use of this weapon justified, or is it a weapon that will clearly cause grievous and unnecessary harm to civilians or irreparable damage to what we one day hope will be a reunited Galifar?

The crucial underlying point is that the civilians were ultimately seen as the innocent people of a united Galifar. The monarchs were fighting over the succession, but they were fighting for the right to rule all of the people of Galifar—so don’t butcher civilians. Likewise, there was a general rule that you don’t target noncombatant members of dragonmarked houses (IE Jorasco healers)—though this only applies to NONCOMBATANTS, so a Deneith mercenary or a Jorasco healer who takes up arms would be valid targets.

A highly contentious point was the treatment of corpses. Four of the nations supported laws forbidding the desecration of corpses and gravesites. As a result, under the code of war Karrnathi necromancers could only animate the corpses of Karrnathi citizens. This is a rule that many frontline necromancers violated during the war, and there are active cases based on this—with Karrnathi counselors arguing the point of “military necessity.”

When would war crimes actually have been defined? Were they already on the books when the Last War began? Were they only defined with the Treaty of Thronehold?

The basic principle of the Last War is that the five heirs of King Jarot challenged the traditional succession… But that all sought to reunite Galifar under a particular leader. None of the Five Nations were trying to secede; it was a war about who should rule the united whole. So there was reasonable open communication between the warring powers from the very beginning, and I think the general terms of warfare were established early on; again, the war was fought over the question of who was worthy to rule Galifar, not to destroy any of the Five Nations. So I think basic agreements on the treatment of civilians and prisoners would have been established by the leaders of the Five Nations early in the war. Beyond this, the war lasted for a century and wasn’t going at a breakneck pace the whole time; there were certainly previous attempts at mediation and temporary ceasefires during which the rules of war could be renegotiated, prisoners exchanged, etc. There surely were additional clauses established in the Treaty of Thronehold—such as forbidding the creation of warforged—but the basic laws likely date back to the start of the war.

Would Cloudkill be outlawed under the rules of war? If not, why not?

There are banned weapons of war. And it’s easy to draw casual comparisons to our world: cloudkill is a form of poison gas, we banned poison gas, therefore wouldn’t they ban cloudkill? But with any comparison to our world, it’s important to look at the reasons we made the decisions we made and to see if they actually apply to D&D. Poison gas was banned because it horrified the public. Mustard gas was seen as a slow and agonizing way to die—slowly suffocating while your skin and lungs blister—and notably, had horrific long-term effects on the people who survived gas attacks. It also wasn’t especially EFFECTIVE; heck, if the wind changed it could threaten your own people. Essentially, it was a very traumatizing weapon, causing unnecessary suffering when considering its actual effectiveness.

Cloudkill, on the other hand, is none of these things. It inflicts 5d8 poison damage—even the half damage inflicted with a successful saving throw is sufficient to kill a typical commoner, so it kills just as quickly as a fireball. There’s no risk of wind blowing it out of your control. It has no effect OTHER than damage—no long-term side effects, nothing that indicates that it particularly causes pain; it doesn’t even inflict the Poisoned condition, which would be an easy way to represent debilitating pain. There’s nothing that makes cloudkill any more inhumane than a fireball; one could argue that swift death by gas might be MORE humane than death by fireball, and fireballs are a standard part of war in the Five Nations.

If I was to create an equivalent to mustard gas, I’d make it slow-acting—either 1d6/round or simply to say that it kills through suffocation—while adding additional effects to reflect the agonizing pain and long-term after-effects. Let’s say that it inflicts the Poisoned condition the first time a victim fails their saving throw and makes them Incapacitated on their second saving throw, as well as reducing Constitution by 1 every time they fail a saving throw (incidentally reducing their ability to resist suffocation). This Constitution damage would be permanent unless magically cured. You could also add a risk of blindness, which was another long-term side effect of mustard gas. The essential point is that a weapon like fireball—or, in my opinion, cloudkill—is seen as a valid, effective weapon of war. Weapons that will be banned are those seen as causing unnecessary suffering or which are specifically designed to cause mass civilian casualties.

What are a few specific ways the people of Khorvaire and beyond enjoy their potatoes?

Keep in mind that I myself am not an expert on all the ways one can prepare potatoes, and that someone with a stronger culinary background might be able to present more interesting and exotic alternatives to what I’m going to suggest. With that in mind…

  • While other sources may not agree with me, I’ve always personally seen Thrane as relatively ascetic in its cuisine. I see Thranish life as being largely driven by small farming communities. As a result, I see Thranish country cuisine as being more functional than exotic. So I’d say Thranish potatoes would be floury potatoes par-broiled to cook the outside while leaving the inside nearly raw, providing an immediate carb-hit from the outside, with a longer release of carbohydrates over time as the uncooked core is slowly digested. 
  • By contrast, I’ve always seen Aundairian cuisine as being both more dramatic and subtle, playing off the more widespread presence of prestidigitation. Likewise, I see the Aundairians being more inclined to show off with their cuisine, taking pride in delicate work. So I could see a sort of Hasselback potato with different flavors infused between the slices, or fine croquettes. 
  • Breland I’d lean toward a straightforward baked potato but with lots of extras piled on, with the specific extras varying by region (and also somewhat being a chance to show off one’s wealth). 
  • Karrnath I personally lean toward potato soup and stews. 
  • Cyre would of course borrow from everyone else, but I’d also be likely to make Cyre the place that’s developed the fried potato and dishes spinning off from them. Though House Ghallanda has picked up and popularized thin fried potatoes across the Five Nations—everyone loves dragon fries!

With that said, these are just MY ideas, and a better cook might be able to come up with more interesting options! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for keeping this site going and for asking these important questions!

IFAQ: Kaius and Lady Illmarrow

Image by Rich Ellis and Grace Allison, from Phoenix Dawn Command

In my previous article, I answered questions my patrons posed about the Blood of Vol. In response to that, one of my patrons asked a question that had deeper roots reflected the changes to the setting over the course of three editions of D&D.

Could you please clarify the historical relationship between the vampiric Kaius, the Blood of Vol, and Erandis/Illmarrow under your current conception of their lore?

One of the most infamous “secrets” from the original Eberron Campaign Setting is that Kaius ir’Wynarn III, the King of Karrnath, is actually Kaius I—that he was transformed into a vampire by Erandis Vol and replaced his descendant. I say “secret” because this information was included in the basic description of Karrnath in the book, and because there have been images and miniatures of Kaius the Vampire… so while it was supposed to be a secret in the WORLD, most PLAYERS were aware of it. In describing this, the ECS says…

When the Last War was in full swing, Kaius I was approached by priests of the Blood of Vol. These priests promised to aid Karrnath against its enemies, provided Kaius agreed to a few minor considerations… First, the priests worked with Kaius’s own court wizards to perfect the process for creating zombie and skeleton troops to bolster Karrnath’s forces… Second, the priests provided an elite fighting force dedicated to both Vol and Kaius—the Order of the Emerald Claw.

That was in the ECS, the first Eberron book ever written. Over the course of fifteen years, the concept of the Blood of Vol, Erandis Vol, Lady Illmarrow, and the Order of the Emerald Claw all evolved. Lady Illmarrow is a spider who has agents spread among the Seekers—including priests and members of the Crimson Covenant—but the faith doesn’t serve her personally. Likewise, it has been established that the Order of the Emerald Claw was just ONE of the Seeker chivalric orders, but not the only one. So for a more detailed breakdown of the timeline as I personally run it…

  • Early in the war, plagues and famines wreak havoc in Karrnath. Priests of the Blood of Vol — possibly including Malevanor’s predecessor Askalor, or even a young and still living Malevanor — approach Kaius and propose an alliance between the Seekers and the crown, offering necromantic advancements and undead troops in exchange for elevating and celebrating the faith and developing the chivalric orders.
  • The Seekers celebrate this alliance and the common people grudgingly accept it. Over the course of decades, Seeker priests and necromancers work to find ways to enhance Karrnath’s military might through necromancy. This includes widespread use of common undead troops with their bone knight commanders, the development of the Seeker orders, and the perfection of the Odakyr Rites, creating the Karrnathi undead.
  • This continues until the Regent Moranna turns against the Blood of Vol, disbands the orders, and breaks ties between the faith and the crown. When Kaius III rises to power, he blames Karrnath’s troubles—including the plagues and famines that originally set the alliance in motion—on the Seekers, a populist strategy that salvages Karrnathi pride and seeks to solidify support behind Kaius; this is important because not all of the warlords support his desire for peace.

This all public-facing, well documented fact. What is NOT publicly known is what happened to Kaius I and the role of Lady Illmarrow. One of the intentional choices we made when writing Eberron Rising From The Last War was to leave the ultimate truth about this up to the DM. Specifically, Rising includes a newspaper article that says Maybe Kaius is a Vampire… Or maybe he isn’t! This is tied to an in-world conspiracy theory I personally subscribe to, but I’ll get back to that later. So the main point is that what I’m about to say isn’t a spoiler, because IT MAY NOT BE TRUE IN THE CAMPAIGN YOU ARE PLAYING IN, reader. But with the assumption that Kaius I is a vampire…

Long before the Last War, Lady Illmarrow worked to spread agents throughout the Seekers. She gained power over priests and even placed a number of her own loyal servants within the Crimson Covenant. While useful, this influence was limited by the fact that the Seekers had little political influence and no organized military; there was no equivalent to the Order of the Emerald Claw for her to use. As the Last War began, she used her influence with her Seeker agents to promote the idea of the alliance with the Crown. It’s worth noting that it is entirely possible that ILLMARROW is responsible for some of the plagues and famines, creating a situation where Kaius needed the alliance. Regardless of whether this is true, the priests who approached Kaius I largely did so in good faith, truly believing that their actions would benefit both their country and their faith—while Illmarrow’s loyalists made sure to include the idea of the Seeker chivalric orders. In the decades that followed, the elevation of the Seekers and their integration into the military served Illmarrow’s agenda in a number of different ways. Her agents within the Seekers gained more broad influence in the nation. She gained greater access to the Karrnathi military (remember, not all the members of the modern Emerald Claw are Seekers—many are just Karrnathi veterans and patriots!). She had access to the arcane resources of Karrnath to help her develop necromantic weapons. And with the development of the chivalric orders, she was able to build the core of a force that could serve as her personal strike force—the Order of the Emerald Claw.

Next, the ECS tells us this:

When Vol, the ancient lich at the heart of the Blood of Vol cult, appeared before Kaius to collect her “considerations” for the aid her priests provided him, he had no choice but to submit. In addition to allowing the cult to establish temples and bases throughout Karrnath, Vol demanded that Kaius partake in the Sacrament of Blood. Instead of the usual ceremony, Vol invoked an ancient incantation that turned Kaius into a vampire. Instead of becoming a compliant thrall, however, Kaius fought to keep his independence. Furious that the vampire refused to be humbled, Vol eventually forced the issue by triggering Kaius’s blood lust (something he had been struggling to control). When the crimson haze cleared, Kaius discovered that he had killed his beloved wife.

Even with the many changes over the years, in my campaign the basic idea of this is the same. As the price of the continued Seeker alliance—something Illmarrow could control through her agents—Kaius was forced to become a vampire. This should have made him a thrall forced to do Illmarrow’s bidding, but somehow he was able to resist her control… though not before killing his wife. We know that what happened next is that he went into hiding. There’s likely two reasons for this: the first being that the world wasn’t (and still isn’t) ready to put a vampire on the throne of Galifar, and the second being that whatever allowed him to resist Illmarrow’s control wasn’t reliable; he had to go into hiding until he found a way to protect himself from her influence. The ECS tells us “Now, after eighty years of hiding and secretly working to break all ties with the Blood of Vol, Kaius has returned to govern his nation. He has taken the place of his great grandson, pretending to be Kaius III.” Looking back to the public-facing facts, it is at this time that Karrnath breaks ties with the Seekers and disbands the chivalric orders. It’s up to you how far this goes; as I say above, in my campaign Kaius III is now using the faith as a straw man to build support. Regardless of whether you follow that path, Kaius III has taken an anti-Seeker stance and opposes Illmarrow, while Illmarrow has reformed the Order of the Emerald Claw as her personal army, including both original Seeker members and Karrnathi fanatics who believe she will return Karrnath to greatness (unlike peace-loving Kaius III).

The question that remains is who is Kaius III? It is possible that he’s Kaius I the vampire pretending to be Kaius III. I personally like the theory that he’s Kaius III pretending to be Kaius I pretending to be Kaius III—that the reason Illmarrow can’t control him is because he’s NOT really Kaius I, but rather Kaius I is remaining in hiding and working through K3 until they can find a way to break Illmarrow’s hold over him. This ties to the next question, which is assuming K1 is a vampire, what IS Illmarrow’s hold over him? The ECS account implies that Erandis used a ritual to turn K1 into a vampire. *I* prefer the idea that she turned him the old fashioned way—that one of her top vampire lieutenants sired Kaius, and that it is actually that lieutenant who can control Kaius, using the standard bond between sire and spawn. One of the main reasons I prefer this is because it means killing that vampire is the key to breaking Illmarrow’s hold over Kaius, and that’s a story adventurers could get involved in.

If you follow the original narrative in which Kaius I is a vampire who replaces Kaius III, what to you think he did in all the years between disappearing and becoming Kaius III? It is almost 100 years for a ex-king vampire probably with none or few allies.

First of all, I COMPLETELY disagree with the idea that Kaius I had “no or few allies.” He didn’t just run away. His disappearance would have been very carefully planned. To my knowledge the exact circumstances have never been described, but I expect that he faked his own death, used cosmetic transmutation to enact a long term disguise, and then went into hiding among a carefully established network of supporters. For the sake of absolute secrecy it’s quite likely that many of the people sheltering him didn’t know who he was, but they would know that he was a loyal servant of the former king. He would have retained contact with followers with influence in court, and in MY Eberron he was certainly continuing to manipulate events in Karrnath from hiding, offering guidance to generals and nobles who remained loyal to him and likely dealing with political rivals from the shadows. Ultimately, this culminated with his working closely with Moranna to plan the Regency and his return. Again, aside from Moranna many of the people he worked with may not have had known exactly who they were dealing with, but they certainly respected and valued his advice.

Beyond that, one of the most important things he was doing was learning everything he could about vampires. He was surely working to master his own abilities, but also to understand his weaknesses and particularly to understand the methods Illmarrow could use to control him and what he could do to block them. In this, I expect that he was working closely with Seekers. Remember that Kaius has been called out as having a loyal cabal of Seeker followers who, among other things, provide him with blood. Part of the idea is that even though Kaius PUBLICLY denounces the Seekers—because it’s politically expedient to do so—he maintains ties with a devoted sect OF Seekers. Why would they follow him? Because they recognize that Illmarrow holds a poisonous influence within their faith and that Kaius opposes her—they believe that in the long term, Kaius WILL help the Seekers. Time will tell if they are correct.

But to the short form, I believe that the vampire Kaius I was always pursuing his return, which required him to learn more about the nature of vampires and to manipulate events from the shadows. He built alliances, destroyed enemies, and studied the nature of the undead.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

All this may be fun for folks who like quibbling over inconsistencies in canon sources, but as a DM or player, why does any of this matter to you? Here’s the key breakdown.

  • The Order of the Emerald Claw is a force that is directly loyal to Lady Illmarrow. Its forces include Seekers with elite military training—bone knights, battlefield necromancers—as well as Karrnathi veterans who aren’t Seekers but who are fanatically devoted to Illmarrow.
  • While there are still necromantic forces integrated into the Karrnathi military—non-Seeker Karrns learned necromancy during the time of the alliance—a significant portion of this strength was lost when the crown broke ties with the Seekers. The bulk of the Karrnathi undead were sealed in subterranean vaults, and some of the warlords are afraid that they cannot be trusted.
  • As a Karrnathi Seeker, you may have to deal with hatred from your own people, who have been encouraged to blame the Seekers for all of Karrnath’s woes. Some Seekers are angry about this and have turned against the Crown, and it’s many of these Seekers who support the Emerald Claw. However, other Seekers are still devoted to Karrnath and trust that this time will pass.
  • Kaius III opposes Lady Illmarrow and the Emerald Claw. It may be that Kaius is a vampire who has found a way to resist her control; that he isn’t a vampire at all; or that he is actively carrying out a plan to break her power (IE destroying his sire). Illmarrow seeks to undermine Kaius; her loyalists in the Emerald Claw accuse him of being weak, of robbing Karrnath of its rightful victory by pursuing peace, and so on.
  • It also ties to the most basic question of whether Kaius is a potential ally or whether he’s a dangerous enemy. If adventurers oppose Lady Illmarrow, Kaius could be a powerful friend. On the other hand, while he may want a peaceful solution, in my opinion Kaius still wants to rule Galifar; remember that if he is the vampire Kaius I, he’s one of the five rulers who STARTED the Last War. I believe that he pursues peace because he doesn’t feel Karrnath can win and reunite Galifar through force, at least for now. But in my opinion he is a ruthless man and a brilliant strategist who has been scheming for a year. He may be the enemy of your enemy if you’re opposing Illmarrow, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have sinister plans of his own… it’s just that where Aurala is willing to restart the Last War, I think Kaius is searching for a different path to the throne of Galifar.

As a Karrnathi Seeker player character, an important question is whether you are angry at Kaius III for turning on your faith (and if so, if you actually have a positive opinion of the Order of the Emerald Claw); whether you simply have no opinion; or whether you are actually loyal to your king in spite of this betrayal. If you choose the latter approach, one option is that you are actually part of the king’s inner circle (even if only at the lowest level)—that you are sworn to help him find a way to break Lady Illmarrow’s poisonous influence within the faith.

As an example of this: In a campaign I ran, a player created a paladin of the Blood of Vol. His backstory was that his parents were members of a Seeker chivalric order and were killed when Moranna turned on the faith. As a child, the PC was taken in and raised by Lady Illmarrow, taught to harness his powers and led to believe that Kaius III betrayed his faith and was responsible for the death of his parents. As a PC, his initial arc was to build his power and gain allies to help him bring down Kaius III. That was the PC’s goal, but what the PLAYER knew from the start was that his character was a dupe and that Kaius III wasn’t truly guilty. His whole idea was that, assuming he succeeded in killed Kaius, it would through Karrnath into chaos and the PC would realize Illmarrow had lied—that the SECOND arc of his story would be undoing the damage he’d done and bring down Lady Illmarrow. We never actually reached that second arc in the campaign, but I appreciated the idea—that he KNEW his character’s goal was something foolish that would have disastrous consequences, but that his long-term character arc would be cleaning up that mess. And in this story you can see something I talked about in the previous article—that it may be that any number of Illmarrow’s agents serve her because they believe she has the best interests of the Seekers or of Karrnath at heart, and that if they discover absolute proof that this is not the case, they could turn against her.

You used to talk about Erandis Vol as quite a sympathetic character, murdered and robbed of her birthright while still a teenager, but your presentation of “Lady Illmarrow” is quite different; she seems more unambiguously evil.

There’s a few important elements here. From the very beginning Erandis Vol was intended to be one of the major antagonists of the setting. Eberron draws on Pulp and Noir themes, and Erandis and the Emerald Claw were always intended to weigh on the pulp side of that spectrum. They’re the Nazis in an Indiana Jones movie, Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon, COBRA in GI Joe. What I’ve always said is that the Emerald Claw are the villains adventurers can always feel good about opposing: you never need to stop and say “I wonder if we should actually let the Nazis have the Ark of the Covenant” or “Maybe COBRA has some good points.” The SEEKERS have a far greater degree of moral complexity and depth of story, and SEEKERS can be allies or enemies. But Erandis and the Emerald Claw are supposed to be some of the most reliable, straightforward villains you can encounter in the world.

Having said that: I see Erandis as a TRAGIC character, and I always have. I LIKE villains to have depth and motivations we can understand. Erandis has endured horrors and carries an enormous burden. I can understand why she commits atrocities. But the key point there is that she commits atrocities. We may feel sympathy for her loss, we may understand her drive to reclaim her birthright, but the simple fact is that she will destroy nations and slaughter countless innocents in pursuit of that goal. She’s a tragic villain, but the key word there is VILLAIN.

The second important point here is that the people who work for her DON’T KNOW HER TRAGEDY. And that’s what underlies this question and WHY we introduced the identity of Lady Illmarrow. Erandis Vol is the woman murdered as an adolescent, who saw her entire bloodline unjustly eradicated because of a mark she bears on her skin but cannot use, who cannot even choose oblivion but is bound to an eternity to contemplate her failings and the stolen legacy of her line. It is Erandis who must hide her name and nature lest the forces that eradicated everyone she cares about come after her again. She CAN’T share her burden. She can’t even declare her name with pride lest she bring down ruin on all she has accomplished. And thus, she created Lady Illmarrow, a Grim Lord who has risen to power among the Bloodsails entirely on her own merits, unburdened by ancient tragedy. Lady Illmarrow is infamous not for the deeds of her family, but for her own deeds and power. She is respected and feared by her minions, even those who have no knowledge of her true past and potential.

It could well be that Erandis uses Illmarrow to channel her darkest impulses and to be the ruthless tyrant she needs to be to achieve her destiny, while Erandis remains the murdered adolescent still mourning her family. She’s been alive for thousands of years and has suffered through immense tragedy; it could well be that Illmarrow is in some ways an independent persona, that the mask Erandis created has taken on a life of its own and in this way allows the core of Erandis to retain some innocence. However, the ultimate point is that whether she’s Erandis or Illmarrow, she is a dangerous villain who will break the world if it allows her to achieve her goals.

If Erandis Vol wants to die (“she cannot choose oblivion”) why doesn’t she just reveal her presence to the Deathguard and let them destroy her?

First of all, just because Erandis may hate her existence doesn’t mean that she wants the DEATHGUARD to end it. The Undying Court destroyed her entire bloodline and she is all that’s left of their legacy. If she was to be destroyed without mastering her mark, all of that would be for nothing. And she will NOT allow the Undying Court to win this struggle.

Second: the Deathguard can’t destroy her. Since Rising From The Last War, it is canon that the elocation of Erandis’s phylactery is unknown; if her body is destroyed, she will reform in a random location hundreds of miles away. So the Deathguard can’t grant her oblivion. What it CAN do is slaughter all her allies, steal or destroy all the relics she’s gathered, and ruin all the plans she’s carefully built up over centuries. The danger they pose isn’t to her personally, but rather to everything she has managed to accomplish. Imagine you’d spent 800 years building up a plan; would you want a bunch of $&%* paladins to suddenly drop in, destroy everything, and leave you in a new body hundreds of miles away having to spend centuries to rebuild everything you’ve lost?

I’ve written a number of articles that are quite relevant to this topic, so for people who HAVEN’T been reading this blog for years, here’s a few you might want to check out.

Dragonmark: The Blood of Vol

IFAQ: The Crimson Covenant

IFAQ: Malevanor

IFAQ: Mummies and the Blood of Vol

Erandis: Hot or Not?

That’s all for now. Thanks to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible!

IFAQ: Blood of Vol, Malevenor, and Tairnadal Burial!

It’s been a very busy month, but as time permits I like to answer short questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few questions related to the Blood of Vol, the mummy priest Malevanor, and the burial customs of the Tairnadal elves.

Malevanor—the Blood of Vol’s high priest of Atur—seems to have genuine faith and sits between Erandis, the Crimson Covenant, and the Seeker community. What makes him tick? Is he good, bad, or in between?

In life, Hass Malevanor was a Seeker priest and student of necromancy. A Karrnathi patriot, he devoted his life to helping to develop superior combat applications of necromancy. Along with Gyrnar Shult, Malevanor played a key role in the development of the Odakyr Rites—the rituals used to create Karrnathi Undead. The basic principles of the Blood of Vol maintain that the universe is cruel and that we must stand together; Hass fought for the good of both his people and his nation. Exploring Eberron says “The former high priest of Atur was the mummy Askalor, who held the post for over four hundred years—but he was weary of his long undead existence. When Malevanor was grievously injured during the Last War, Askalor transferred his power and his undead existence to his apprentice.” This ties to the point that Seeker undead—especially the Oathbound—are expected to guide and protect the living. As both High Priest and Oathbound, this is the role Malevanor sees for himself. It is his duty to guide and protect living Seekers. As an Oathbound, he can never truly find the Divinity Within—but he can help the living Seekers and seek to find and aid those who may yet be the greatest living champions of the faith.

I personally believe that Hass is still a patriot who loves the idea of Karrnath, but it’s also the case that Karrnath has betrayed him and his people. He will always put the good of the Seekers above all else—but if he CAN help Karrnath along the way, he will.

So in Kanon, what’s his relationship with Lady Illmarrow?

I think that Malevanor believes Illmarrow is dangerous and that he questions her devotion to the faith, but he also realizes her POWER, and both a) doesn’t want to have her as an enemy and b) wants to see that power used for the good of his people. So he’s trying to maintain an alliance with Illmarrow, but it’s an uneasy relationship. Ultimately, he is OATHBOUND. I believe that his oaths are just what it says on the tin: that he is bound to protect the Seekers, help them find the Divinity Within, and to maintain and protect Atur. Which is an interesting contrast with the lich Illmarrow. I don’t think Malevanor COULD betray the faith for his own personal gain, because the oaths that sustain his undead existence are predicated on doing his duties as high priest and protecting his people.

Could Malevanor be a warlock patron (say, Undead or Undying)?

Sure, Malevanor could definitely be a warlock patron for a Seeker warlock. I’d love to do a campaign with a PC Seeker warlock who’s essentially Malevanor’s undercover agent working against Illmarrow. The main thing I’d emphasize in this case is that it’s not that Malevanor is giving the warlock powers, it’s that the warlock’s powers come from their own Divinity Within and that maelvanor is just helping them to unlock those powers. Because that is literally what he’s supposed to do: help Seekers harness the power of the Divinity Within.

In most of the Five Nations, the Blood of Vol is a series of independent covert cults without any clear connection or hierarchy between them. How does the Crimson Covenant or Lady Illmarrow find or get in contact with these cults? Or does Illmarrow mainly rely on the Order of the Emerald Claw?

Exploring Eberron has this to say:

The (Blood of Vol) isn’t as formally structured as the Church of the Silver Flame or even the Sovereign Host. For the most part, Seekers keep to themselves, living in their own villages and small towns or in isolated neighborhoods of larger communities, where they can practice their traditions without drawing the ire of their neighbors… Outside Atur, for the most part, each Seeker community relies on their abactor—the priest that oversees a temple or community—and they rarely reach out to the world beyond. The largest temple in a region serves as a hub, coordinating with the other Seeker communities around it.

With that in mind, the important thing to understand is that the Blood of Vol is a religion that Seekers follow because it helps them make sense of their lives, providing meaning and strengthening their community. Most Seekers don’t know who Lady Illmarrow is and don’t have any interest in helping her with her grand schemes. Illmarrow has agents scattered throughout the faithful who do support her—from agents in the Crimson Covenant down through hub temples or villages—and these specific agents may provide support to her schemes. But OVERALL Illmarrow doesn’t control the faith and most Seekers don’t serve her purposes; some actively despise and oppose the Order of the Emerald Claw. Meanwhile, the members of the Order are Illmarrow’s active agents; some are extremist Seekers, while others—including Illmarrow herself—aren’t Seekers at all.

So: Illmarrow’s active agents are almost entirely in the Emerald Claw. Agents of the Emerald Claw may be able to get support from a local Seeker community but that is not at all a sure thing; it will depend in Illmarrow has supporters or sympathizers within that specific community.

Meanwhile, the Crimson Covenant is something that even Seekers generally know of only as a rumor. One thing I’ve suggested is that when a Seeker priest uses commune, they could actually get their answers from the Covenant. For more on the Crimson Covenant, refer to this article.

I like the idea of the Crimson Covenant being influenced by Lady Illmarrow, but not under her full control. But how could adventurers free it over her influence without having to destroy the mummies and liches that are loyal to her?

This depends entirely on how you decide to present the members of the Crimson Covenant who are loyal to Illmarrow. WHY are they loyal to her? It could be that Illmarrow is deceiving them, and that if adventurers can expose the truth these members of the Covenant will turn against her. Or it could be that these members of the Covenant are themselves merely hungry for power and not concerned with the good of the Seekers; if adventurers could prove this to the other members of the Covenant, then the truly faithful might clean house.

The Blood of Vol is a religion that values basically faith in your inner self. It seems there would not be much of value to Seeker cleric besides their own life (and maybe life of others). What would a BoV cleric refer to as “sacred”? Does this notion even apply to the Blood of Vol?

Looking up “Sacred”, I found this definition: connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration. So with this in mind, what does a Seeker priest consider to be sacred?

  • Life. First and foremost, the Blood of Vol is based on the idea that mortals possess a spark of divinity within. We ARE the gods we venerate—or at least, we have the potential to be.
  • Blood. More specifically, the Seekers consider blood to be the channel of the Divinity WIthin.
  • Survival. This one’s a little more abstract and not shared by all sects, but the general idea is that death is unnatural—that mortality is a curse invented to prevent us from unlocking the Divinity Within. With this in mind, fighting death is a sacred activity. Don’t give up, and do all you can to protect the people you love.

One of the central rituals of the Blood of Vol is the communal sharing of blood as a way of establishing the bond between a community. What we have called out is that while Seekers believe that life is sacred and death is a tragedy, they recognize that you can’t save everyone and their focus is on protecting their own communities and people. Any death is a tragedy, but if bandits attacks your village, you need to put your OWN survival ahead of those who are trying to kill you and the people you care about. But I could very well see some Seekers who actively try not to kill their enemies, believing that any death is a loss.

Though again: There are many sects in the Blood of Vol. The Thieves of Life largely care only about their OWN lives and Divinity Within, and are all too happy to sacrifice others in pursuit of their own ascension.

And now for something completely different…

How do the Tairnadal/Valenar elves bury their dead? Especially when they’re in the field or engaged in battle?

So: The Tairnadal are a nomadic culture. They are essentially always engaged in battle and on the move, and generally don’t place a lot of importance on physical monuments. Likewise, they don’t place much importance on corpses. They’re concerned with the SPIRIT, believing that the spirit can live on through devoted followers. For revenant blades of Cardaen, Cardaen’s spirit is with them at all times; it doesn’t matter where his bones are.

Having said that: we’ve talked about revenants who treasure relics of their patron ancestors. Notably, the Player’s Guide to Eberron talks about the zaelshin tu:

Every Valenar warrior reveres his ancestors and carries a zaelshin amulet bearing the sigil of his patron ancestor with him at all times. With a zaelshin tu, you do more than that: You carry a physical relic of your patron ancestor—a tooth or sliver of bone brought from Xen’drik to Aerenal and encased in your zaelshin amulet.

The two noteworthy points here are that champions carry a piece of their patron—so again, not burying them in some grand tomb—and that these are described as teeth or slivers of bone; we’ve never described them as using, say, bonecraft armor.

With this in mind, I think that the common Tairnadal practice is to burn the dead, and then to collect ashes, teeth, and slivers of bone that survive the fire, which would be carried by other members of the fallen elf’s warband and possibly passed on to the Keepers of the Past. You don’t want to leave something behind an enemy could desecrate, and all you need is a sliver that can help serve as a beacon to their spirit.

That’s all for now! Thank you to my Patreon supporters for their questions and support!

Dragonmark: The Provinces of Riedra (Full)

One year ago, my Patreon supporters requested more information about the nation of Riedra. I shared a piece of this article on the site, but kept the full article as exclusive to Patreon. It’s been a year and I’m currently dealing with a personal crisis that is limiting my time, so I decided to share the full article with all of you. So, welcome to Riedra! For more context, you might want to read this article about Using Riedra in 5E or this recent article about Quori and Dreams,

The Unity of Riedra is a single political entity. It’s one nation. But it’s made up of eight provinces, and each of these provinces were once unique nations. Those nations were shaped by environmental factors, by religions, arcane discoveries, and most of all, by planar influences. While they are now unified—and while the Inspired work to discourage any strong sense of provincial nationalism in modern Riedra—understanding these fallen nations is crucial both to understanding the landscape of Riedra, the history of the Five Nations, and the secrets or wonders that adventurers might travel to Riedra to uncover. RIEDRA may be one nation, but you’ll have very different adventures in Borunan and Ohr Kaluun. 

Secrets of Sarlona implies that the old kingdoms were fairly advanced—that they had wizards, sorcerers, divine champions. If so, why did these techniques not travel to Khorvaire? And in general, why don’t the Five Nations show their Sarlonan roots more strongly? We’ve said that while most followers of the Sovereign Host in the Five Nations know that their faith is “the Pyrinean Creed,” very few actually know that this means it originated in the Sarlonan nation of Pyrine. Why have these nations been forgotten? 

There’s two important factors. The first is that the Sarlonan “settlers” of Khorvaire weren’t the paragons and pride of their nations. We’ve called out that Lhazaar was a pirate, and it’s no accident that her lieutenant Malleon was known as “The Reaver.” Many of those who followed Lhazaar were outlaws, renegades, or rebels of one brand or another. Later waves of colonization were largely driven by refugees. These weren’t organized efforts to preserve the culture and achievements of the old kingdoms. Equally important is the fact that they couldn’t transport many of their greatest achievements, which is another reason why there weren’t more active programs driving colonization. Because one thing Sarlona has in greater amounts than any other continent is planar influence. Manifest zones, wild zones, reality storms, and more—Sarlona is closer to the planes than Khorvaire. This creates both threats and opportunities. Depending on their traits, manifest zones and wild zones can be extremely dangerous—but as seen in Sharn, Shae Mordai, and Dreadhold, they can also enable wonders that can’t be replicated in the mundane world. Manifest zones can be a source of unusual flora, fauna, or other resources. The drug known as absentia is created using a root that grows in certain Xoriat manifest zones, while the pomow plant—the mainstay of the Riedran diet—was developed in Lamannian zones. Beyond this, the more powerful zones leak planar energies into the surrounding region. This can be tapped to produce magical effects, and can also subtly shape the personality of mortals. Creatures that live in the vicinity of a Shavarath wild zone are more likely to be aggressive—and to have an instinctive knack for developing martial skills. So the wizards of Khunan and the sorcerers of Corvagura were channeling planar magic… and when Khunan wizards fled to what’s now Valenar, they found that their magic didn’t work there. So the reason the Five Nations don’t seem to be that much more advanced than the fallen kingdoms of Sarlona is because they had to rebuild their arcane science… in the process, creating forms of magic that are more reliable and versatile. Nonetheless, it is possible that adventurers sifting through the ruins of the old kingdoms may find rituals, relics, or spells that are a match or even superior to modern techniques… though it might take the skill of an exceptional arcanist—or a player character—to adapt these techniques to the modern style! (Side note for the Arcana-proficient: the old Sarlonan style of magic—drawing on planar energies—is referred to as “Externalist” or “wielding external forces.” The most common form of arcane science employed by the Five Nations is “Siberyan,” and manipulates energies exuded by the Ring of Siberys.)

So what follows focuses on aspects not covered in Secrets of Sarlona: the impact of the planes and interesting aspects of the old cultures. But always remember that the Inspired have worked to suppress the old traditions. In particular, the Edgewalkers are an elite order tasked to protect innocents from extraplanar threats, and one of their major duties is patrolling the borders of wild zones. Many zones do contain deadly threats; but in other cases the Inspired don’t want the locals to find ways to use the zones as their ancestors did, or to be influenced by the zone. 

Note that manifest zones to all planes (save Dal Quor) can be found anywhere in Riedra. What are called out in these sections are the most common and powerful planar influences in a region, and the common wild zones. But manifest zones to Thelanis can be found in any province, for example; in the novel The Gates of Night, the protagonists travel between Xen’drik and Sarlona using manifest zones tied to Thelanis. 

BORUNAN

In Borunan, you might…

  • Be drawn into the schemes of oni and ogres plotting rebellion. 
  • Find an ancient forge where oni crafted weapons for ogre champions. 
  • Be forced into an extension of Shavarath, where celestials and fiends fight an endless war. 
  • Use a passage from Khyber to enter Riedra.

In the days of the old kingdoms, the ogres of Borunan were peerless warriors. The champions of Borunan possessed inhuman strength, martial discipline, unshakeable courage, and weapons forged in Fernian flame. Time and again, they repelled the legions of Nulakesh and the crusaders of Khalesh, and yet Borunan never sought to conquer any of its neighbors. Some might wonder why this was. Borunan is a harsh land; did the ogres never consider claiming the more fertile fields of Nulakesh? What kept their population so low that they never needed to expand? 

It’s commonly known that the people of Borunan considered their neighbors to be “unworthy foes” and the common assumption was that the ogres were cruel brutes who constantly fought one another. In fact, the ogres were waging a truly divine war—fighting alongside angels in an endless struggle against devils. The center of Borunan contains a wild zone to Shavarath where a fragment of the Eternal Battleground extends directly into the material plane, and the ancient ogres devoted their might not to conquest, but to defending this keep against the forces of tyranny. 

Borunan contains multiple wild zones tied to Fernia and Shavarath, along with multiple passages into Khyber. The forerunners of the ogres emerged from a demiplane within Khyber; tectonic activity destroyed this passage, leaving them stranded in this barren region of rocky desert and hills. Of the Shavaran wild zones, only the one—known to the ogres as Gul Dol, the Gate of War—is a direct passage to the Eternal Battleground. But the ogres built their fortresses in the other Shavaran zones, and over generations the influence of Shavarath helped shape them into fierce warriors. The origin of the oni is a secret long forgotten, but one possibility is this: just like the rakshasa and the overlords, the immortals of Shavarath cannot be permanently bound. But during their service in Gul Dol, the champions of Borunan found a way to bind defeated fiends to their own bodies—sort of an involuntary version of the process that created the kalashtar, trapping a fiend within a bloodline of ogres. Thus the supernatural powers of the oni may be tied to the essence of devils bound to the bloodlines. This could be why many oni are drawn toward evil; but the oni of Borunan resisted those sinister instincts, using the power of their defeated foes to fight alongside celestials. 

In addition to being fierce warriors, the oni of Borunan forged their weapons in the Cauldron, a wild zone tied to Fernia. Their weapons weren’t as well-crafted as the arms and armor of the Dhakaani, but the oni spell-smiths were able to channel the energies of Shavarath and Fernia to imbue their creations with powerful magic. While most of these weapons were destroyed long ago—not to mention being designed to be wielded by ogres and oni—legendary items or even artifacts could remain in Gul Dol, the Cauldron, or other ancient ruins. 

The ogres of ancient Borunan cared nothing for the Sovereigns or the Silver Flame. They were entirely devoted to the battle for Gul Dol. The angels of the Legion of Freedom battle the devils of the Legion of Tyranny for control of this massive fortress, which is broken into multiple rings and wings. The angels believe that the balance of this war reflects the balance between tyranny and freedom across the multiverse. Of course, this is only one of countless fronts in the eternal war between these forces, but the ogres embraced this idea and believed that in fighting alongside the angels they were fighting for freedom for all people. 

The Fall of Borunan. Despite the might of its champions, Borunan was easily laid low by the Dreaming Dark. The humans of the surrounding regions had long feared the ogres, and it was easy for the quori to fan these flames. Within Borunan itself, the quori sowed doubts and created feuds, shattering centuries of unity. Were the oni secretly in league with devils? Was the battle for Gul Dol a pointless sacrifice? Civil strife decimated Borunan and left it vulnerable to outside attack. 

Borunan Today. In the present day, the ogres of Borunan are kept from the wild zones that served as the strongholds of their ancestors, and largely kept from any form of war; they use their strength for manual labor as opposed to battle. The oni are raised to believe in a twisted form of their actual history. Riedran oni are taught that their gifts are the result of being living prisons for fiends; it is the duty of the oni to redeem the fiend within them through their own devoted service to the Inspired. Largely, this has proven successful, and the Horned Guard—an elite corps of oni soldiers—is one of the most powerful weapons in the Riedran arsenal. However, over the course of the last two decades a group of Borunan rebels has been forming a resistance movement, the Horned Shadow, that seeks to protect the ogre-kin (ogres, oni, eneko). This is still a young movement, struggling to build power while avoiding the gaze of the Thousand Eyes. It’s up to the DM to decide if the Horned Shadow is entirely heroic—a throwback to the champions of ancient Borunan, who devoted their lives to defending freedom from tyranny—or if the oni leaders are driven by fiendish impulses and have malevolent goals. 

Keep in Mind. Borunan has many passages to Khyber. These could provide ways for adventurers to cross from Khorvaire into Riedra, intentionally or by accident. This could also be a vector that could bring the minions of a daelkyr into Riedra. The Edgewalkers monitor these passages, and have sealed those that can be sealed. The public is kept away from the wild zones that hold the ancient ruins of Borunan, and believe them to be the domain of foul altavars (the Riedran term for fiends). The two most powerful zones are the Cauldron (a Fernian zone in the Broken Blade Mountains and the seat of old Borunan’s oni spell-smiths) and Gul Dol. Today, the majority of the Gate of War is in the hands of the Legion of Tyranny, but the angels still hold an isolated keep. Their forces include a number of Borunan sword wraiths—the spectral vestiges of the ogrekin champions that fought and died alongside them. 

The ogres of Borunan are generally more intelligent than their cousins in Droaam, with an average Intelligence of 9. It’s likely that the ancestors of the ogres and oni of Khorvaire were transported by a planar anomaly; this might explain their reduced Intelligence and the lack of any Borunan traditions. Another possibility is that the ogres of Khorvaire are a separate branch of the species—that they came from the same demiplane but emerged in Khorvaire instead of Sarlona, and were untouched by the influence of Shavarath. 

CORVAGURA

In Corvagura, you might…

  • Seek to sabotage the teleportation network of Durat Tal.
  • Explore a mysterious magebreeding facility in a Lamannian wild zone. 
  • Try to save a youth who’s manifested sorcerous powers. 
  • Explore the tomb of a forgotten sorcerer-king. 

Corvagura is a tropical region marked by deep jungles and lush fields. It has long been the most densely populated region of Sarlona, and it was one of the most powerful and influential of the old kingdoms. Corvagura includes manifest zones and wild zones tied to Lamannia, Mabar, and Thelanis. It’s the influence of Lamannia that lends unnatural fertility to the region and its inhabitants. The influences of the other planes were made manifest in two powerful lines of sorcerers. Anyone born within the sphere of influence could potentially develop sorcerous powers; Corvagura was born when leaders rallied these sorcerers into two noble houses, and used their powers to conquer the city-states in the region. 

  • The House of the Sun drew its power from Thelanis. Its members had the Wild Magic origin. Their magic tended towards glamour and glory, twisting the thoughts and emotions of others or striking down foes with bolts of flame. Though biologically human, members of the House of the Sun often had fey features and could be mistaken for Khoravar. The sorcerers of the House of the Sun were taught to be proud and glorious, demanding adoration from their subjects. 
  • The House of the Moon drew its power from Mabar. Its members had the Shadow origin, and their magic drew on darkness and inspired fear. They never animated the dead, but they could command shadows and summon specters. The sorcerers of the House of the Moon were taught to be calm and cruel, instilling terror in any who might challenge them. 

While these houses were presented as families, position was based entirely on sorcerous power. Anyone who manifested such powers would be adopted into the appropriate house, while any heir who failed to show sorcerous talent by their 18th birthday was cast out. The majority of the sorcerers of Corvagura were convinced that their powers elevated them above the common people, and were infamous for their casual cruelty and tyrannical rule. But they did protect the common people from a number of deadly threats, from the colossal beasts that emerged from Lamannian wild zones to the restless dead and capricious fey unleashed by the other wild zones. 

The Fall of Corvagura. The quori attacked Corvagura on three fronts. They encouraged the cruelty and narcissism of the worst of the sorcerers, pushing their subjects past the limit of what they would endure. They created a deep, paranoid rift between the houses, leading to destructive vendettas. And they encouraged the spirit of revolution among the people—culminating in the appearance of early Inspired, commoners wielding supernatural powers capable of defeating the sorcerers.    

Corvagura Today. Today Corvagura is the heart of Riedra, both in terms of population and administration. It’s home to both the capital city of Durat Tal and the primary eastern port, Dar Jin, along with a number of other important bastion cities. The influence of wild zones tied to Mabar and Thelanis are largely contained by the Edgewalkers; the Shanjueed Jungle has been called out as the largest Mabaran manifest zone in Eberron, dwarfing even the Gloaming of the Eldeen Reaches. Lamannian wild zones and manifest zones have been tapped to contribute to the agricultural programs of Riedra; this includes the creation of unusual hybrids, such as the pomow plant. As the Inspired keep people out of the wild zones and work to contain their influence, plane-touched sorcerers are rarely born in Corvagura. People know what to watch for and know that such sorcerers are vessels for altavars (evil spirits), responsible for chaos and bloodshed in the days before the Unity, and sorcerers identified by the Thousand Eyes will either be killed or forced into service with the Edgewalkers. However, as with other provinces, there may well be a few who have managed to conceal their powers or who managed to flee into wild zones and survive there—rebels who could assist player characters. On the other hand, some such sorcerers have internalized the teachings that these powers are the gifts of fiends, and believe that the path to greater power lies in performing vile acts; such criminals are exceedingly dangerous. It’s worth noting that while the sorcerer-princes of ancient Corvagura were human, there’s nothing stopping a Corvaguran changeling, shifter, or member of another species from developing such powers. 

Keep in Mind. Corvagura is the heart of Riedra. Dar Jin is a center for trade and diplomacy. Durat Tal is the administrative center of the Unity, and it is also the hub for the network of teleportation circles that allow the Inspired to swiftly move troops and supplies across the length of their realm. Because of this, Corvagura has the largest number of hanbalani monoliths and the greatest effort made to ensure the loyalty of its people; while there could be a few rogue sorcerers, Corvagura is a difficult place to find support for any sort of rebellion. 

The manifest and wild zones tied to Mabar and Thelanis provide all sorts of potential for adventures. These zones may contain ruins associated with the Houses of the Sun and Moon, along with the forgotten treasures of the sorcerer-kings. Mabar zones may yet be haunted by the specters of ancient tyrants or by newly animated undead. The Edgewalkers are dedicated to keeping fey and undead contained, and the Thousand Eyes ensure that no one tells the stories of the fey. But this can still be another way to enter Riedra; Thelanian zones often allow passage to the Faerie Court under the right circumstances, and adventurers exploring the Twilight Demesne in Khorvaire could accidentally end up facing Edgewalkers on the edge of a forest in Corvagura. 

DOR MALEER

In Dor Maleer, you might…

  • Use a passage to Dolurrh to rescue a lost soul.
  • Release an ancient champion who’s been bound in ice for thousands of years. 
  • Battle rocs or other colossal beasts. 
  • Help a band of duergar commandos strike a blow against the inspired. 

Dor Maleer is a region of harsh plains, cold deserts, and mountains. It is a barren land, only slightly more hospitable than the Tashana Tundra that lies to the north. In the days before the Sundering, the northern mountains were the domain of the Akiak dwarves, while the plains were claimed by the Hual Maleer, a loose federation of human and shifter clans. 

The plains of Dor Maleer lack the resources to support large settlements, and the Hual Maleer have always lived in small communities, splitting and forming new clans when the population began to outstrip local resources. Dor Maleer contains multiple wild zones and manifest zones tied to Lamannia, but these showcase the versatility of that plane. Most people think of Lamannia as the Twilight Forest, as a plane that enhances the fertility of plants and animals… and this is a common element of Lamannian zones. But Lamannia embodies the power of nature, and that includes deadly storms, frigid tundras, raging volcanos, and more. The plains of Dor Maleer are broken up by regions of environmental extremes at odds with the surroundings. Wild zones could cause endless hurricanes, with free-roaming air elementals howling with the winds. There are vast pools of lava in the Maleeri plains, and fire elementals occasionally emerge to scorch the soil. There are also a few wild zones where the environment is more welcoming—a stretch of dense forest, an impossibly verdant valley. Maleeri hunters forage and hunt in these regions, but attempting to settle them is unwise. These zones represent the indomitable force of the wild, and resist the intrusion of civilization. Disease, accelerated decay, and hostile wildlife will all plague any would-be settlers. And hostile wildlife in these zones is quite literally a big deal. These regions produce megafauna, massive beasts similar to rocs in size and power, though they can take many forms. These powerful beasts are sterile outside their zones, and thus haven’t spread. But there are tales of ancient hunters feeding a village for a month with the corpse of a mighty bear dragged from the deep forest. These wild zones cannot be tamed, but there are a few manifest zones with less extreme effects, and these were the sites of Dor Maleer’s largest communities.  

The mountains of Dor Maleer contain wild zones tied to Risia and Dolurrh. In the Risia zones, chasms are filled with ice and temperatures are far more severe than nature should allow. But the ice of Risia preserves, and time ceases to flow for creatures or objects encased in ice in such a zone. It’s possible explorers could find ancient champions from the Sundering or the days of the old kingdoms—or even a frozen dragon from the Age of Demons! The influence of Dolurrh is unpredictable. The most dramatic landmark is the Final Passage. When the moon Aryth is full, those who venture into this cavern can enter the Catacombs of Dolurrh. This offers a way to recover a soul that cannot be resurrected through normal means. But the Catacombs have guardians, and the Queen of the Dead doesn’t surrender her subjects easily. 

The Frostblade (Paqaa) Mountains were the home of the Akiak dwarves, a dwarf culture that produces mountain, hill, and gray dwarves. The Akiak duergar are thought to be a mutation resulting from generations dwelling in the radius of the Dolurrh wild zones. In addition to their sensitivity to light, the Akiak duergar have an unusually strong bond to Dolurrh. This often results in a flat emotional affect; though they aren’t paralyzed by the infamous ennui of Dolurrh, the Akiak are somber by nature. Akiak duergar hear the whispers of spirits, both the voices of their own ancestors and of others who have died in the places they pass through. Largely these voices form an incomprehensible chorus. However, some Akiak duergar hone their skills and become mediums (as per the magewright specialty in Rising From The Last War). All duergar can learn to channel this babel, harnessing this choir of excess thought as pure psionic power; it’s by channeling this power that a duergar can hide itself from the perceptions of others or temporarily expand its mass. Akiak champions learn to wield this power to produce devastating effects. In the days before the Sundering, the Akiak pioneered the development of psionic tools and channeling devices; the hanbalani monoliths that ensure Inspired dominance over Riedra are based on Akiak techniques. 

The Fall of Dor Maleer. Dor Maleer was never a strongly united nation. The first step for the Dreaming Dark was to build a force among the Hual Maleer—causing tensions between clans and between human and shifter. Inspired champions arose within the clans, uniting them and spreading the word of the Path of Unity. The psychic Akiak proved resistant to the manipulations of the Dreaming Dark, but the quori amplified fear and conflict between them and the people of the lowlands. As the Unity of Riedra emerged, the first true Inspired offered peace to the Akiak, and paid them handsomely for their aid in creating the hanbalani and other elements of Riedran infrastructure. But once the dwarves had served their purpose, Riedra turned on them—launching a brutal preemptive strike. Survivors were driven from their mountain home and into the Tashana Tundra. 

Dor Maleer Today. This harsh frontier region can’t support the civic infrastructure that is common throughout the rest of Riedra. There is a single bastion city: Dar Vuleer, a port on Lake Kelneluun; this is in a Lamannia manifest zone that allows limited agriculture and exceptional fishing. The fortress of Kintarn Malin coordinates the defense of the northeastern border and also serves as a training center for the shifters of the Taskaan Legion. Beyond this, Maleeri villages are smaller and more loosely structured than their southern counterparts. There are relatively few hanbalani monoliths in the province and many villages don’t have the shared dreams or receive messages from the Voice. As such, while most Maleeri still support the idea of the Unity, they are not as deeply indoctrinated as the people of other provinces. Rebels from other provinces who don’t want to flee Riedra entirely might take shelter in Dor Maleer, where the Thousand Eyes aren’t watching so closely.

Because of the sparse population of Dor Maleer, the wild zones of the province don’t receive the same level of attention from the Edgewalkers as those in southern population centers. Local hunters work together to deal with rampaging megafauna, and elementals rarely stray far enough from their zones to endanger the inhabitants. The Final Passage doesn’t unleash threats into the world, and mortals who enter it almost never return; so while there are a few Edgewalker outposts monitoring the region, these zones are largely accessible to adventurers. 

The Akiak were driven from the region and their towns and fortresses were destroyed; there are ruins in the mountains, though most have been picked over by Akiak rebels in the intervening centuries. As described in Secrets of Sarlona, the Akiak are currently expanding their resistance movement, even sabotaging monoliths. 

Keep in Mind. The mountains are home to manifest zones and wild zones tied to Dolurrh. Unlike Mabar, Dolurrh rarely produces hostile undead. However, the mountains are certainly haunted, carrying echoes of the ancient dead. Shadows might replay powerful or emotional moments, or adventurers could stumble across battles being refought. Like speak with dead, these are typically just traces of memory—but they can certainly be eerie. 

KHALESH

In Khalesh, you might…

  • Recover an artifact from a couatl tomb.   
  • Discover a hidden enclave of shulassakar. 
  • Channel the power of Irian to perform a crucial ritual. 
  • Find a portal to one of the floating towers of Irian.

Khalesh is a land of temperate plains and desert—green grassland fading into sun-baked plains and mesas. While it’s more hospitable than neighboring Borunan, at a glance it’s rather barren—endless and empty. And yet, if you wander these plains, you may find yourself enveloped by a sense of well-being, a deep-rooted optimism and the knowledge that all will be well… with an underlying conviction that you’ll fight to keep it that way. 

Khalesh is suffused with the energies of Irian and Shavarath. It is Irian that provides the optimism and draws people toward the light. The influence of Shavarath is slower and more subtle, but over many thousands of years it produced a culture determined not just to embrace the light, but to battle the darkness. There are a number of patches where Syrania reaches through, where the dominant mood is one of peace. But for the most part, it is a realm that breeds hope and the willingness to fight for it… two things that are very dangerous for the Inspired. 

These planar influences aren’t the only supernatural force at play in Khalesh. Glance across a Khalesh plain and you may see what seems to be a giant bone projecting from the earth—a fallen column of what seems to be polished ivory. The locals call these “dragon bones”, saying they are the bones of Eberron herself. But search further and you may find patches of wall, foundations, or even small buildings formed from this dragonbone. It is virtually indestructible and seemingly immune to the passage of time. It’s not made from the bones of the earth; it is a building substance used by the ancient couatl, the most numerous of the native celestials of Eberron. Khalesh is one of the places that the couatl came into the world in the Age of Demons, one of the anchors where these immortals would reform if they were destroyed. In a sense, it’s the celestial counterpart to the Demon Wastes of Khorvaire; a place suffused with lingering celestial power.

The humans of Khalesh built their cities on couatl foundations, and Khaleshi champions had visions of the celestial serpents and their great sacrifice to protect the innocent. The couatl graced the banner of Khalesh, and its people took up their ancient battle against fiends. And so all three factors played a part. The Khaleshites drew on the power of the Silver Flame and embraced the call to fight supernatural evil. Irian inspired them with hope and the belief that they could build a better world. And Shavarath drove them to FIGHT for that world—to push beyond the purely compassionate aspects of the Silver Flame and to use the sword to battle mortal evil as well as fiends. 

The Khaleshite crusaders wielded the power of the Silver Flame, but they didn’t call it by that name. They fall under what the Library of Korranberg has defined as a “Serpent Cult”—focused purely on the celestial couatl and their battle against the fiends. Precedent suggests that the Khaleshites must have had their own equivalent of the Voice of the Flame, but few details of the ancient champions remain. The people of Khalesh were constantly clashing with their neighbors. They fought supernatural threats, battling aberrations from Khyber, destroying undead, smashing extraplanar threats. But they were unduly proud of their virtue, and the pervasive influence of Shavarath drove them to fight—to look for flaws in the people around them. They fought the tyrants of Nulakhesh, clashed with the reavers of Rhiavhaar and the bandits of Sunyagir, and battled the beasts of Borunan. In periods when they were at peace with Nulakesh, they would join forces to attach Ohr Kaluun… which, to be fair, certainly deserved it. 

So Khaleshite civilization was built around constant conflict, blended with a sense of moral superiority and an endless quest toward the light. Khalesh was a virtuous society, but all too quick to draw a sword when a compassionate word could better serve. 

The Fall of Khalesh. Khalesh was always deeply unpopular with its neighbors, so it wasn’t hard for the quori to harness that resentment. But they had another card to play. Quori agents revealed that the noble families of Khalesh had long concealed a bizarre secret: that over the course of untold generations of devotion to the serpent cult, Khaleshite champions had become something inhuman. The Khaleshite leadership was riddled with shulassakar, a feathered form of yuan-ti tied to the couatl. While the shulassakar were devoted servants of the light, through dreams and agents the quori were able to twist this, convincing the common people that the shulassakar were monstrous alien invaders, that THEY were fiends and that the corrupted bloodlines of Khalesh had to be completely exterminated. And, to a large degree, they were. The Inspired largely depopulated the region and leveled its cities—fortified citadels built in manifest zones tied to Irian and Shavarath. All couatl relics that could be found were destroyed, and records of the virtuous victories of the Khaleshites were wiped from history. 

Khalesh Today. The current inhabitants of Khalesh are descended from people resettled from the forgotten nations of the Syrkarn region. The modern people of Khalesh shun the ancient ruins and know that the ancient people were corrupted by the vile spirits in the region, and they are especially observant in their devotion to the Path of Inspiration. A few of the Kintam fortresses are built in manifest zones tied to Shavarath, but people are forbidden to enter the powerful wild zones, and these areas are patrolled by the Edgewalkers; all know that the sense of hope one feels around these areas is the lure of fiends trying to set hooks in your soul. 

Khalesh has the potential to be especially interesting for any adventurers tied to the Silver Flame. The Khaleshite faith was closer to that of the Pure Flame than to the modern church of the Silver Flame; the Shavaran influence drove them toward unnecessary violence. But there are still relics that will respond to the touch of anyone who channels the power of the Flame. There is surely a holy avenger waiting in a tomb, and there could be couatl artifacts that might help a party that needs to bind demons or resist the power of the Lords of Dust. This is also an opportunity to introduce new spells, feats, or archetypes added in a new sourcebook; perhaps a connection to a couatl or wisdom shared in an ancient scroll teaches a champion of the Silver Flame a new way to wield its power. 

It’s up to the DM to decide just how wild the wild zones of Khalesh are. Unlike the ogres of Borunan, the Khaleshites weren’t fighting a war in Shavarath. But it’s possible that their capital city is in a wild zone tied to an actual projection of Irian, and that Khaleshite emissaries regularly visited the Amaranthine City. It’s also a question as to whether any of the shulassakar were able to survive the Inspired purge. An unusual possibility is that in their last days, the Khaleshites developed their own form of deathless, similar to the councilors of the Undying Court. If so, there could be ascendant shulassakar, Khaleshite champions who survived the Sundering but who cannot leave the wild zone that now sustains them. 

Khalesh is also known to have at least one wild zone tied to Syrania. This could simply be a region where aggressive thought is impossible, or a place of floating rubble and remnants of great towers—a warning of what could become of Sharn. But as a wild zone it could be something far stranger, or even a portal into Syrania itself. Perhaps one of the floating towers of Syrania is in Khalesh—the tower of a Dominion of Knowledge who has been recording the conflict between the overlords and the couatl since time began. 

Keep in Mind. The energies that permeate Khalesh inspire and provide hope, but also urge war. The ruins of the couatl are largely VERY ruined, having endured the full force of both the overlords and the Inspired… though it’s always possible there is some hidden subterranean sanctums that were never found. The people of Khalesh had their own Voice of the Silver Flame; could that spirit reach out to a modern follower of the faith, and if so, is it a purely positive power or does the influence of Shavarath make it a dangerous threat? The current people of Khalesh are devoted to the Inspired and hard to sway, but could the touch of Irian lend hope to insurgents?

NULAKESH

In Nulakesh, you might…

  • Try to convince an Edgewalker commander of the threat posed by the Dreaming Dark 
  • Steal planar research from the arcane workshops of Dar Mun 
  • Destroy a Riedran resurrection facility 
  • Venture into the Iron Ward of Daanvi, a realm of tyrannical devils.

Long before anyone had dreamed of the Unity of Riedra, the Empire of Nulakesh was the most powerful force in Sarlona. Beginning as a single city-state, its legions conquered and assimilated the people of the surrounding region, incorporating them into its war machine. At its height, the Empire of Nulakesh dominated much of what is now Pyrine and Dor Maleer. The empire waxed and waned many times; its current borders reflect the lands it held when the Inspired rebellion finally wiped out the Imperial line at the end of the Sundering. 

Nulakesh is strongly influenced by Daanvi and Shavarath. Where Irian and the Silver Flame channeled the Khaleshites to fight for the light, the Nulakeshi were driven by war and order. This drove deep martial instincts and an innate aptitude for martial discipline… a legacy that still lingers in Karrnath today. But the Nulakeshi genius for war was all too often wielded by tyrants, as the influence of the Iron Ward shaped the Imperial line. 

Nulakhesh has a high number of manifest zones tied to Shavarath. These were the foundations of most of the ancient city-states, and still are today; Nulakhesh provides the bulk of the soldiers of the Harmonious Shield, and even Nulakeshi peasants engage in regular martial drills. However, it also has wild zones, and these have been a danger throughout the history of the region. One of the Shavaran wild zones is connected to the layer known as the Warring Cities, but unlikely the ogres of Borunan, there is no role for mortals to play in this layer. Other zones don’t serve as actual portals to Shavarath, but they recreate its deadly environs. All too often these Shavaran wild zones have been the source of bloodshed or tragedy, with razor storms or sword wraiths flowing beyond the borders of the zone to threaten the lands beyond. 

Daanvian zones are less dramatic, but they are largely tied to the oppressive layers of Daanvi. The ancient capital of the Empire, the city of Nulakar, was built in a zone tied to the Iron Ward of Daanvi. While there was no direct portal between the planes, accounts suggest that more than one devil passed from Daanvi into Nulakar, and that there was a time when the Nulakeshi emperors had fiendish advisors. 

The Fall of Nulakesh. Nulakesh was at a low point when the Sundering began. The Dreaming Dark began by firing up their imperial spirit, giving the emperor and warlords dreams of regaining their past glories. The Sundering lasted for generations, and the resurgent Nulakhesh was just the beginning of their plans. It became a tool they used to cripple surrounding nations—the force that fiercely battled the foul serpent-people of Khalesh and brought righteous fury to Ohr Kaluun. Along the way, the quori encouraged the emperors to indulge in ever-greater acts of cruel tyranny, and to work with their Daanvian devils (who were acting independently, with no idea of the role they were playing in the greater schemes). Even the stoic Nulakeshi had a breaking point; as they grew close to it, the first Inspired rose up, promising to overthrow the tyrants—whom they revealed to be working with devils!—and to lead the people on the true path of righteousness, cleansing ALL the foulness from Sarlona. Once the Inspired of Nulakesh convinced their forces to unite with the Inspired-led armies of Corvagura, the fate of the continent was sealed. 

Nulakesh Today. Nulakhesh has always been a part of the strong foundation of Riedra. It is the base of the Edgewalkers and the primary source of the Harmonious Shield. Its people are happy to have a cause to fight for, and to the degree that the influence of Daanvi is allowed to influence them, they are more inherently comfortable with tyranny in pursuit of order. However, the city of Nulakar is a shunned ruin, and the Edgewalkers patrol all of the dangerous wild zones. The Inspired are ever alert: they don’t mind Daanvi instilling an appreciation for order in their subjects, but they will not allow other immortals to influence their people. 

The Edgewalkers are based in the massive fortress-city of Dar Mun, which is poised between four wild zones (including old Nulavar, the Imperial Crypt, and two Shavaran zones). In addition to being the primary garrison and training facility for the Edgewalkers, it holds the finest arcane library and workshops in Riedra. The Edgewalkers are allowed to study arcane magic, and must be prepared to fight any sort of threat. The Inspired also conduct much of their planar research in Dar Mun, and there are surely many secrets to be discovered here and powerful eldritch machines. 

There are only a few wild zones tied to Dolurrh in Nulakesh, but they are noteworthy. The Imperial Crypt was was the royal necropolis, noteworthy because of its curious powers of resurrection. When any form of magic that returns life to the dead is used here, it only requires half the usual costly material components. In some cases the dead interred here have spontaneously returned to life, though perhaps not with the same souls they began with. Close to Dar Mun, the Imperial Crypt is heavily guarded by the Edgewalkers. The Inspired have limited access to resurrection and largely don’t need it, because they simply employ new hosts; but it could be that the Inspired are working on new techniques, trying to transform this zone into a resurrection factory. The other noteworthy wild zone tied to Dolurrh is a stretch of fields known as the Gray; this region is suffused with the ennui of Dolurrh, and those who remain in it for long soon succumb to a deadly apathy. 

Keep in Mind. The people of this region are both fiercely loyal to the Inspired and the most martially inclined of all Riedrans. The widespread manifest zones tied to Shavarath encourage aggression and can enhanced it in many ways, as will be detailed in Exploring Eberron. This region has the highest concentration of Edgewalkers, in part because it has some of the most dangerous wild zones. 

OHR KALUUN

In Ohr Kaluun, you might…

  • Work with the Dream Merchants to enter Riedra unseen. 
  • Search for a powerful artifact hidden in a constantly shifting maze. 
  • Be hunted by a ruthless family of skulk assassins. 
  • Fight a cabal of wizards preparing to unleash chaos on all of Sarlona.

The kingdom of Ohr Kaluun may be the most infamous nation in the history of Khorvaire. Its lords were ruthless in their pursuit of supernatural power, committing countless atrocities in their quest for mystical might. The influence of Xoriat, Mabar, and Kythri can be felt across the islands, and these powers shaped the psyche of the people. Mabar wiped away empathy, driving people to be cruel and predatory. Kythri drove constant change, a quest for innovation and endless emerging factions. And Xoriat inspired the Kaluunites to pursue strange and terrible visions, to attempt things no mundane mind would consider.

The people of Ohr Kaluun possessed advanced forms of both divine and arcane magic. Thanks to the influence of Kythri, they made countless breakthroughs in arcane science but would rarely maintain or preserve these techniques; thus Kaluunite wizards wielded astonishing powers but rarely passed their knowledge on to future generations. The most widespread and consistent advancements in Ohr Kaluun were made by their warlocks and priests; the lords of Ohr Kaluun were more than willing to make dangerous bargains in exchange for the power that they craved. 

Throughout most of its history, Ohr Kaluun was ruled by an alliance of Shadow Lords. In theory these were hereditary bloodlines, but in practice the title was held by whoever could claim power and hold on to it, and feuds and uprisings were common. Ohr Kaluun is well known for its war mazes, vast labyrinths that served as both fortresses and cities. Each Shadow Lord dwelled at the heart of a great maze, pursuing their own paths to power and scheming against their rivals. Each lord generally followed a different path to power, and a maze would be devoted to a particular sinister patron, whether that was a member of the Dark Six, and overlord, or an archfiend from one of the planes. While there were a few Kaluunite lords known to have actually been loved by their people, the influences of Mabar and Xoriat drove the Kaluunites to horrific excess and cruelty. If you are ever looking for an image of a classically evil cult, for people willfully embracing the service of fiends or performing vile sacrifices, there are surely tales of Ohr Kaluun that serve that need. 

The influence of Kythri, Xoriat, and Mabar permeate the islands, even beyond manifest zones and wild zones. There are also lesser manifest zones tied to other planes. Every war maze was built within a particular zone, and that colored the practices and achievements of the inhabitants. Evidence suggests that both the skulks and the changelings were created in Ohr Kaluun, using magebreeding techniques that surely drew on the power of Kythri. The influence of Xoriat led them to pursue paths of magic no rational mind would conceive of. Thus, while Ohr Kaluun was known for its warlocks, the Kaluunites dealt with many different patrons; one maze might use the Fiend patron to reflect bargains with native fiends, another would use the Great Old One to reflect dealing with Xoriat, another might use Hexblade to reflect bargains with the Dark Powers of Mabar. The priests of Ohr Kaluun revered the Dark Six, but different mazes had their own unique pairings, names, and interpretations of the Six.  

A critical aspect of this chaotic history is that almost any mystical approach could be found in a Kaluunite war maze. We’ve never mentioned Ohr Kaluun as working with the daelkyr or symbionts—but there certainly COULD have been a Shadow Lord who bargained with Belashyrra. Necromancy wasn’t a widespread practice in Ohr Kaluun, but adventurers could be drawn into a war maze whose lord dealt with the Bone King of Mabar, and whose mummy still rules over the deadly tomb. 

The Fall of Ohr Kaluun. The people of Sarlona always feared and hated Ohr Kaluun. Pyrine, Nulakesh, and Khalesh had clashed with the island in the past. Fear of Ohr Kaluun was a common thread the quori used in stirring up conflict across Sarlona; on the island itself, it was easy to amplifying the existing paranoia and feuds of the Shadow Lords until it reached a breaking point. The Shadow Lords crippled one another long before they were destroyed by the combined forces of Nulakesh and Corvagura, united by their Inspired champions. 

Ohr Kaluun Today. As with Khalesh, the Inspired were ruthless in their cleansing of Ohr Kaluun. The vast majority of its people were simply slain. The war mazes were nearly impossible to destroy, but were blocked off and shunned. 

Reidra maintains a presence on Ohr Kel, the largest island of the train. Dar Kel is the sole bastion city in Ohr Kaluun; while it serves as a port, it’s primarily there to monitor the area, seeking to stop or at least reduce the activities of smugglers and the Heirs of Ohr Kaluun (dissidents who seek to recover dangerous power from the ancient ruins). The Inspired are legitimately afraid of Ohr Kaluun; they know that they don’t know what deadly forces remain bound in the sealed mazes. 

Ohr Kaluun is sparsely populated; aside from Dar Kel, its legitimate inhabitants are mainly dedicated to fishing and avoid the inland ruins. However, as an areas shunned by the Inspired, it’s a haven for smugglers (including the faction known as the Dream Merchants) and renegades. 

It’s thought that the first changelings were created in Ohr Kaluun, and spread to Khorvaire in a wave of refugees. Likewise, refugees from Ohr Kaluun are believed to be the ancestors of the humans found in the Carrion Tribes of the Demon Wastes. There is only one place where the traditions of Ohr Kaluun survive: the Venomous Demesne of Droaam. The ruling families of the Demesne are tieflings, the result of magebreeding and pacts made by their ancestors. They possess the strongest warlock tradition in Eberron and have built upon the achievements of the past; however, long removed from the corrupting influences of Mabar and Xoriat, they are neither as cruel nor as inventive as their ancestors. 

Keep in Mind. The powers wielded by Ohr Kaluun are supposed to be legitimately dangerous and frightening. It’s not simply that they were powerful warlocks and wizards, it’s that their techniques WERE things rational people would avoid. In some cases, their powers may have had a price in blood or suffering. But it’s also possible that they used spells or techniques that had unusual and dangerous side effects. You might consider the ideas presented in this article about the Shadow

A secondary point is that anything is possible in Ohr Kaluun. The Venomous Demesne only preserved the traditions of a single maze, and the Shadow Lords didn’t share techniques. There’s no telling what secrets are buried in these ancient labyrinths… but whatever they are, they’ll be dangerous and disturbing.

PYRINE

In Pyrine, you might…

  • Explore one of the earliest human shrines of the Sovereign Host. 
  • Be granted a divine vision or entrusted with a sacred artifact.  
  • Debate religion with a priest of the Path of Inspiration. 
  • Discover a hidden library vault filled with ancient knowledge.

Pyrine is a land of warm plains and forests, welcoming both in its aspect and its aura. Something about Pyrine inspires calm reflection. Standing in a Pyrinean meadow, it is easy to feel a sense of joy and contentment—to know that somehow, all is right in the world. This is due to Pyrine’s strong ties to Irian, Daanvi, and Syrania. The effects are strongest when people are close to a wild zone, but even beyond the zones a general sense of peace and well-being pervades the region. The people of Pyrine are naturally inclined to follow the rules, to avoid conflict; even where there are problems, surely they can be worked out. 

Pyrine was never a conquering kingdom. It was a nation of scholars and sages, and it shared its knowledge freely with its neighbors; Pyrinean tutors and advisors could be found in courts across Sarlona. But there was one pillar that was even more important than knowledge: the Sovereign Host. The form of the Sovereign Host embraced by most of the vassals of Khorvaire is known as The Pyrinean Creed; this is because it was established and codified in Pyrine. According to myth, a Pyrinean shepherd stumbled into the First Library, where Aureon taught them the nature of the Host and the basis of Aureon’s laws. True or not, the Pyrineans were people of deep conviction and faith. They had deep and detailed visions of the Host, catalogued in countless scrolls; as a result, they also wielded remarkable divine power, matched only by the crusaders of Khalesh. But they never used their powers for war; instead, Pyrinean priests traveled across Sarlona, spreading the word of the Sovereigns and using their gifts to help those in need. 

Largely, Pyrine was left in peace by its neighbors. The vassal faith became common across Sarlona, and many people did see Pyrine as a blessed land with a special connection to the Sovereigns. One notable exception was Nulakesh; while many Nulakeshi adopted the faith, a number of emperors used their faith as a basis for invasion—the blessed land had to be protected by the Empire, for the good of all! There were also periods where Pyrine was targeted by Rhiavhaaran raiders, and one point when a Rhiavhaaran warlord established a new kingdom in Pyrine. However, in time—often due to pressure from other nations, and apocryphally due to pressure from the Sovereigns—Pyrine was always restored.   

The Fall of Pyrine. Faith was the strong foundation of Pyrine, but the Dreaming Dark was able to use this as a weapon. Dream manipulation allowed the quori to spread false visions, creating schisms and driving zealots to pursue heresy. Nulakesh was again encouraged to extend its power into Pyrine, and even some of the Shadow Lords of Ohr Kaluun were urged to attack. Across Sarlona, quori worked to undermine faith in the Sovereigns; after all, if the gods were just, why would they allow the myriad terrors of the Sundering? Ultimately people came to see the Pyrineans as servants of the altavars, peddling a faith that bound innocent dupes to the service of fiends. The temples were torn down and the Sovereigns forgotten. 

Pyrine Today. Today, there are no signs of the Sovereign faith in Pyrine. The people remain thoughtful and philosophical, but that deep-rooted faith has been shifted to the Path of Inspiration. The region maintains the general deep aura that encourages its people to follow the rules and to avoid conflict, but now that has been harnessed in the service fo the Inspired. The Harmonious Shield has a reduced presence here, as any sort of violence is rare. The people of Pyrine generally remain both kind and inquisitive, and while their faith is deep, it isn’t blind. Of all the people of Riedra they are the most likely to be welcoming to foreign travelers and interested in engaging them in conversation. However, most Pyrineans truly believe in the Path of Inspiration and are prepared to rationally present its virtues. Of all the provinces in the Unity, Pyrine has the highest degree of literacy; the Guiding Path maintains schools in Pyrine, and those trained here serve as scribes across the nation. 

The wild zones of Pyrine are largely benevolent in nature. Under the proper circumstances, there are places that can serve as portals to the Refuge of Irian and the Immeasurable Market of Syrania. However, these zones are carefully secured by the Edgewalkers, and the people of Pyrine believe that they are dangerous regions filled with fiends. However, the Dream Merchants—and occasionally even the Inspired themselves—make use of the market portal. 

While most shrines to the Sovereigns have been destroyed, there are a fear that weren’t so easily wiped away. There’s a great arch carved of dragonbone. There’s shrines hidden in caves or wild zones. Most notably: The common belief was that the capital city of Pyrine was built around the First Library. That city was leveled in the Sundering, replaced by Dul El. However, it’s possible that the actual First Library wasn’t a building in the material plane—but rather a tower in Syrania. If this is the case, there may be other portals to the First Library in Pyrine. Did Aureon truly teach the first vassal. Or was “Aureon” a Dominion of Knowledge or a plane-traveling dragon? 

Keep in Mind. The most interesting question about Pyrine is WHY the Sovereign faith was so strong there. Was it promoted by angels from Irian and Syrania? Or is there some deeper tie between the region and the faith? A vassal cleric or paladin could be drawn to Pyrine to reclaim an ancient artifact, or adventurers in Sarlona for other reasons might experience divine visions while passing through Pyrine. 

RHIAVHAAR

In Rhiavhaar, you might…

  • Helped Unchained dissidents escape the Thousand Eyes.
  • Find an ancient artifact tied to the legendary Lhazaar. 
  • Search for an ancient treasure trove hidden in the height of Rhiavhaar’s power. 
  • Deal with an archfey whose defining story has been long forgotten.

Rhiavhaar has wild zones tied to Lamannia, Thelanis, and Shavarath, and the influence of all three planes can be seen in its history. The people of Rhiavhaar have always been the finest shipwrights and sailors of Sarlona. In part this is due to unusual lumber harvested from Lamannia wild zones; Rhiavhaaran ships have always been faster and more durable than their counterparts in other nations. Beyond this, Rhiavhaaran sailors have long known tricks for finding favor with wind and water. Some of these were tied to Lamannia and a limited form of primal magic. Others were tied to bargains with the fey, whether the friendship of a minor mischievous sprite or a pact made with an archfey. But the Rhiavhaarans weren’t simply merchants or fisherfolk. The influence of Shavarath has long driven them to piracy and reaving, and anyone who lived on the Sarlonan coast dreaded the sight of Rhiavhaaran sails. 

Alliances with the fey were a crucial part of Rhiavhaar’s culture. It was the fey-favored families who rose to power, and feuds between archfey often played out in Rhivahaar. While many of the champions of Rhivahaar could be considered to be archfey warlocks, this tradition wasn’t as well developed or understood as it was in Ohr Kaluun; Rhiavhaaran warlocks generally stumbled into their pacts and only a few wielded significant arcane power. The Rhiavhaarans valued their connections to their “cousins”, but they placed much of their faith in strength and steel. As a result, much of the benefits Rhiavhaarans received from the fey were closely tied to location—and as such, were largely lost when Rhiavhaarans crossed the seas to Khorvaire. 

In general, Rhiavhaarans were seen as wild, capricious, and dangerous. “Rhiavhaaran luck” was a curse suggesting that fortune favors a scoundrel. 

The Fall of Rhiavhaar. While it was never as despised as Ohr Kaluun, Rhiavhaar was never loved by the people of Sarlona. Internally the Dreaming Dark exacerbated the feuds between clans. Externally they fanned the flames of those who desired vengeance for generations of Rhiavhaaran reaving, and further convinced people that the Rhiavhaaran “cousins” were fiends, not fey. 

Rhiavhaar Today. Rhiavhaar serves as the western hub for sea traffic, and Dar Ulatesh is the legitimate port of entry for visitors and merchants. While the region is firmly under Inspired control, the people of Rhiavhaar aren’t as devoted as their counterparts in Nulakesh or Corvagura. There is, perhaps, still a touch of fey wildness in the Rhiavhaaran character. The Edgewalkers patrol the wild zones, but they can’t cover all of the manifest zones tied to Thelanis… and the various tools of the Inspired—the Voice, the dreams, the remote viewing of the Thousand Eyes—can be unreliable in these areas. Cells of the Broken Throne or the Unchained often meet in fey woods or circles of stones, trusting the ancient powers to shield them. Because of this dissident streak and the region’s role as the western gate, Rhivahaar has a high concentration of soldiers and large numbers of active agents of the Thousand Eyes. The Edgewalkers and the Thousand Eyes are always watching for fey influence, and it’s a dangerous place to be an archfey warlock

The Inspired continue to harvest lumber from a few of the Lammanian wild zones, though these zones can produce many dangers. Many of the region’s wild zones are on the coast and extend into the water. Sailors who don’t know the region can run afoul of endless storms, megafauna sharks, fey curses, and other threats. 

Keep in Mind. The Inspired and the Edgewalkers have been largely successful in containing the influence of the archfey associated with the Rhiavhaaran wild zones. However, this is a point of frustration for these fey, many of who yearn to see their stories told once more and who want revenge against the Inspired who have humiliated them. This could drive an adventure—as the player characters could enter Riedra through Thelanis—or just be a source of unexpected assistance. 

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