Dragonmarks 5/23/16: What Comes Next?

It’s a busy time right now. Phoenix: Dawn Command is on the move, and we’re making plans for our demo events at Gen Con. If you’re attending GenCon, I recommend checking out our main seminar on Phoenix… but there will also be opportunities to try out the game itself. I’m looking forward to exploring the world of Phoenix in more depth once the game is out.

At the same time, there’s a lot of material I’d like to create for Eberron if the opportunity presents itself. So this question at the top of the Q&A pile caught my eye.

Which supplements are you most eager to write?

There’s still no news on when – or for that matter if – Eberron will be unlocked for people to use in the DM’s Guild. However, I’m still optimistic that it will happen sometime in the next few months or years. But if it happened tomorrow… what would I start writing?

The short answer is that there’s far more things I’d like to write than I realistically will have time to create. given that, I’m very curious what you would like to read. I’m more interested in exploring regions of the world that haven’t been dealt with in depth than just revisiting the same core locations. But here’s just a few things I’d love to develop, if the opportunity ever presents itself.

THEMES OF EBERRON

There’s a few sorts of stories that work well in Eberron that don’t necessarily work in every setting. Any of these could be explored in greater depth, providing both character options related to that theme (backgrounds, spells, class options, tools, skill applications) and information for the DM about developing and running adventures or campaigns focused on that concept. A few possible themes that could be explored…

  • Investigation. How to make mystery the central theme of an adventure or entire campaign. This would include options for the professional Inquisitive along with general ways to work mysteries and investigation part of a compelling story. As an Eberron product, it could also explore the existing detectives of Eberron (Tharashk, Medani), and present both organizations, locations, and situations well-suited to such stories. 
  • Espionage. The Five Nations are caught in a cold war as everyone races to unlock the secrets of the Mourning and to prepare for the next war. How can this shadow war impact your stories? What about the other forces at play, from the Trust and the Houses of Shadow to the ancient struggle between the Chamber and the Lords of Dust? As with Investigation, this would present options for players and storytellers alike. 
  • Dreaming. Dreams are something that has always intrigued me. In Eberron, Dal Quor is the underpinning of reality, a place we all touch when we sleep. How can dreams affect and enhance a campaign? How can players interact with the Quori? Could you play a character who is a vestige of an ancient dream somehow returned to the waking world? This would explore both the casual use of dreams in a story and ways to make them a central focus of a campaign, along with new options for players and DMs. 

These are just a few examples. I could see Themes about Crime (campaigns based around the underworld of Sharn, Stormreach, or other major cities); Death (What exactly happens when you die? How can mortals interact with Dolurrh? What lies beyond?); Prophecy (What are practical ways to incorporate the Draconic Prophecy into a campaign? Could you have a cleric devoted to the Prophecy, or a bard who specializes in interpreting it? ); War (How can the Last War affect a campaign? Where is new violence most likely to occur, and what happens if it does?) and many more.

PLANES OF EBERRON

At the moment, the planes are little more than high concepts. I’d like to do a piece on each plane, discussing…

  • The metaphysical role of the plane, and how it relates both to Eberron and the other planes. I think in some cases my personal vision of each plane isn’t clearly presented; see the discussion about Syrania in last week’s Q&A for an example of this.
  • The inhabitants of the plane: their nature, culture, goals, and interaction both with one another and outsiders.
  • Examples of manifest zones, coterminous/remote effects, and other ways that the plane’s influence can be felt on Eberron.
  • Notable locations, story hooks, and other ways that the plane can be a meaningful part of a story.

There’s 13 planes, not to mention the discussion of demiplanes. Rather than spending months working on a single massive tome, I’d likely want to do this as a monthly thing, with a new plane every month or so.

THE GOBLIN HANDBOOK

I’ve long wanted to do a comprehensive sourcebook on the goblins of Eberron. Different sections of this would include Goblin PCs, including character options, ways to integrate goblinoids into normal adventuring parties, and themes and ideas for goblinoid parties and campaigns; Dhakaan, a more in-depth look at history, the clans, and tools and techniques of Dhakaan; Darguun, a detailed look at the nation, including more details on major cities, ruins and other interesting adventure location, factions, plot hooks, and more; The Khesh’dar, the Silent Clans; and possibly a look at running a campaign set during the Xoriat Incursion. To do this probably, I’d want to team up with Don Bassingthwaite on a number of things… but I think that could happen.

DROAAM: NATION OF MONSTERS

Droaam is one of my favorite regions of Eberron, both because of the vast range of adventuring options and because it’s interesting to explore the cultures and possibilities that can evolve from a foundation of unified monsters. As with Darguun, I’d love to present options for PCs or campaigns starting out of Droaam; explore the politics and power groups; look at the locations that can drive stories, including Graywall, Khazaak Draal, and the Great Crag; delve deeper into the Daughters of Sora Kell; and generally explore the story potential of the region.

THE DEMON WASTES

As I’ve mentioned in previous Q&As, the Demon Wastes are an area ripe for adventurers, but one that isn’t explored in much depth in the current material. It’s more than just a barren wasteland; it’s a nexus of demiplanes and manifest zones, and home to a host of ancient evils. What lurks in the Lair of the Keeper? What treasures await in Ashtakala? What are the dangers of the Labyrinth, and what is the saga of the Ghaash’kala orcs who guard it? Who are the demons of the Wastes, and what threat do they pose to the world beyond? In addition to resources for building adventures, this would also explore options for PCs from the Demon Wastes, including the Ghaash’kala.

A BOOK OF BEGINNINGS

Quite often, groups of adventurers have no coherent story. Each character is born in isolation, and they come together in a tavern to fight evil and gain gold because that’s what they have to do so we can play this adventure tonight. But an adventure can be far more satisfying if the entire party has a shared story. This would explore this concept both at a high level and concretely, presenting different sorts of player groups and shared stories and looking at how this could influence an entire campaign. Are you Cyran veterans fighting to find a place in a world after the war? Are you agents of the Citadel on a mission for the Brelish crown, or crusaders united in service to the Sovereign Host or Silver Flame? Are you operatives of the Twelve, and if so, do you share a common dream or are each of you putting the interests of your family first? Or might you actually be experiements of the Twelve… magebred humans escaped from a Vadalis facility?

This would present a number of compelling concepts, along with player options tied to each concept and ideas for DMs to explore.

TIMES PAST

I don’t particularly want to advance the timeline… but I’d be interested in exploring the past in more depth. Any of the following times could make an interesting period for adventuring.

  • The Last War. What adventures are possible in the midst of the War itself? This would explore the potential of a Last War campaign, dealing both with martial conflict and the unexpected challenges that can arise in Eberron – such as when your unit stumbles upon a passage to Khyber or an ancient Dhakaani ruin in the midst of what would otherwise be a simple operation. This would also explore the tools of war – spells and items employed on the battlefield. 
  • The Lycanthropic Purge. Two centuries ago, a threat arose in the west that could have destroyed Galifar itself. It was a terrifying and brutal conflict. What did it look like on the ground? Do you want to take on the roles of the templars battling the darkness or the innocents struggling to survive it? 
  • The War of the Mark. Will you play a squad of Dragonmarked heirs fighting against the darkness? Or a group of persecuted Aberrants struggling to survive? Either way, it’s a chance to delve into the prehistory of modern civilization… and to explore aberrant marks and dragonmarks in more depth.
  • The Xoriat Incursion. The Empire of Dhakaan is at its height, but the world is falling apart. The armies of Madness have clawed their way into reality, and now the Dhakaani must seek allies from across Eberron to stand against the armies of the Daelkyr. This is a chance to explore a very different vision of Khorvaire, and to face one of the most terrifying forces in the setting.

That’s seven core concepts already, and already around twenty ideas if you break all the individual possibilities out. And I could come up with more. So really, one of the most important questions is what do you want to read? Do any of the above ideas actually appeal to you? Let me know in the comments!

Game of Thrones Bingo, Ep. 6.5

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 10.55.56 AMAs with last week, I’ve created a set of ten bingo cards for this week’s episode of Game of Thrones. While I have avoided spoilers about the episode, the preview shown last week gave an indication of which plotlines will be at the heart of the episode; as such, I’ve left out any references to King’s Landing but added in spaces dealing with Braavos, Bran, and the Castle Black Crew. As always, there is a good chance that a particular square will not actually appear in the episode, but that’s what keeps it interesting. We know that Littlefinger appears… but will he be creepy about Sansa? Will Meera have anything to do other than waking up Bran? Will we actually hear “Promise me” at the Tower of Joy?

Anyhow, if you’d like to play along, download a copy of the cards here: GoT Bingo 6-5

Game of Thrones Bingo

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 8.01.22 AM

I’ve been watching the new season of Game of Thrones with a group of awesome and creative friends. Making games is what I do, so naturally I decided to make a game out of it. If you’re interested in trying it out, you can download the full set of ten cards by clicking on the following link: GoT Bingo 6-4.

I did put these cards together with episode 6.4 in mind; I had a hunch that we wouldn’t see Bran again until 6.5, so there’s nothing on these cards about Bran, Meera, or Hodor. I’ll put together a new set of cards for the next episode, so check back here on Saturday!

Phoenix Seminar 2In other news, if you’ve been following the blog you know that my new RPG Phoenix: Dawn Command is coming out soon. If you’re attending Gen Con Indy (August 4-7th) and would like to know more, come to our seminar on PhoenixWe’ll be discussing the setting, the system, and talking about all the things that make Phoenix unique. I hope to see you there!

Dragonmarks 5/10/16 : Planes, Druids, and Fiends

I’m working away on a number of different projects that I can’t talk about just yet, while waiting for Phoenix: Dawn Command to come back from the printer. One thing I can mention: I’m scheduled to be a guest at Acadecon 2016 (Dayton, Ohio on November 11th-13th), which is in the last few days of funding on Kickstarter. It’s a small event but has a great lineup of guests, so if you might be interested, follow the link and check it out.

Meanwhile, I’ve got dozens of Eberron questions to work through, and many could be the subject of entire posts. But there’s a few that can be answered quickly, and I’m going to see how many I can get through in one sitting.

If Eberron is ever opened for DM’s Guild, would you consider finally writing and publishing a complete Planes of Eberron?

Absolutely. I have a long list of topics I would love to write about as soon as it is possible to do so, and the Planes are high on that list.

Some planes have a key role in Eberron’s story and are very important for Eberron’s flavour. I mean Dal Quor, Xoriat, Dolurrh. Other planes, at least in core set, looks more as “a place where you can find some creatures that wouldn’t fit anywhere else”. But somehow I feel these creatures would need to be “eberronized”. 

I feel that all of the planes have much more to offer than simply being a source of exotic creatures. Each plane needs to be a compelling foundation for stories, whether the plane is the location of the story or something that directly influences it. I have deeper ideas for all the planes that have been revealed so far, and I feel that Mabar and Lamannia have just as much to offer as Xoriat or Dal Quor. And I look forward to writing about them as soon as it’s possible!

Months ago, we discussed the idea of a Daelkyr obsessed with the Silver Flame and trying to make it stronger in creepy ways. Do you think it could work more on celestial versions of aberration, or maybe in aberrating celestials, like a half-illithid angel?

In my opinion, part of what defines the material plane is that its inhabitants are innately connected to ALL of the planes. Humans live and die. They dream and know madness. They can fight wars and find peace. They are already connected to every plane, and that makes it relatively easy for them to be corrupted or transformed by the influence of planar beings. Beyond this, most mortals are creatures of flesh and blood, influenced by genetics, disease, and similar factors. So creatures of Eberron are easy clay for a daelkyr to work with.

By contrast, immortal outsiders are formed from the pure essence of a single plane. They are ideas given form, only loosely bound to physical reality. An archon from Shavarath is a pure embodiment of war. It wasn’t bred or born; it embodies an idea, and madness isn’t part of that idea. So I think it’s far more difficult for a daelkyr to transform an angel or a quori that to affect a mortal. With that said, anything is possible if it makes a good story. In a way, you can think of an angel as a piece of computer code as opposed to a being of flesh and blood. If the daelkyr could find a way to hack that code and rewrite the fundamental idea that defines the angel, they could twist it. It would just be a completely different process from the fleshwarping techniques they use on the creatures of Eberron.

If a paladin of the Blood of Vol who grew up in the ranks of the church or in another way discovers the true nature of the cult, would he lose his abilities? Or do you think in Eberron can exist a corrupted paladin or a paladin without a faith?

PERSONALLY, I hold paladins to a very different standard than clerics. I am a firm believer in the idea that you don’t choose to be a paladin: it is a divine calling that chooses you. As such, I do feel that it is vital for a paladin to remain “on-mission” and that a paladin who loses faith would lose their abilities until they could find their way back to it. With that said, I feel that paladins are defined by THEIR view of their faith. Clerics typically work through doctrine and study; an illiterate farm girl could become a paladin if she is called. She won’t lose her powers just because she’s excommunicated, and she’s unlikely to lose her faith after encountering a single corrupt priest; instead, she will likely be inspired to follow her calling and do something about that corruption.

This is especially true in the case of the Blood of Vol. Where do divine casters tied to the Blood of Vol draw their strength? The Divinity Within. Seekers believe that we all have the divine spark in our blood – that we could all be gods, and that we were cursed with mortality to keep us from reaching this potential. A paladin of the Blood of Vol isn’t getting her powers from an outside source; she has been called by her own divine spark, her own potential urging her to protect her people and fight death.

Add to this, I actually think the faith of the Blood of Vol has no more corruption than any other organized religion in Eberron… it’s simply that it’s called out more dramatically in Erandis. I believe that the majority of priests of the Blood are committed to the principles of their faith. In my campaign, Malevenor is a true Seeker and Atur a stronghold of the faith. The leaders of the Order of the Emerald Claw are corrupt and abusing the faith of their followers, but the devoted priests far outnumber the corrupt.

Now, if your question was “If a BoV paladin raised in the Emerald Claw discovered the corrupt nature of its inner circle, would she lose her faith and her powers,” I think she would turn on the corrupt priests – but I don’t believe that this would shatter her faith in the basic principles of the religion, especially since her divine power actually comes from within her, and isn’t in any way a gift from those corrupt priests.

A long time ago you wrote that you were playing an orc paladin of Demon Wastes and that you were going to tell us about this experience. I think it is a very interesting point in Eberron. How can a few of orcish tribes stand against all the demons of Demon Wastes?

There’s many more questions you could ask. Where do the demons of the Demon Wastes come from, anyway? What do they do when they aren’t trying to escape the Wastes? Why don’t the demons just go AROUND the Labyrinth? Why were the Ghaash’kala first chosen to guard the Labyrinth, and who set them there? And setting aside the demons, how can the Ghaash’kala survive in such a harsh landscape? What to they eat? Where do they acquire their weapons and armor?

This is a big topic, and when Eberron comes to the DM’s Guild the Demon Wastes is a topic I intend to explore in detail. But here’s the high level overview. There’s far more going on in the Demon Wastes than outsiders realize. It is a web of manifest zones, ancient wards, eldritch machines and demiplanes. Just as the modern Gatekeeper Druids hold back the Daelkyr by maintaining the ancient wards, the Ghaash’kala are also working with tools that date back to the Age of Demons and the foundation of the Silver Flame. As for how they obtain resources and food, they forage in Khyber. There are entrances to Khyber all across the Demon Wastes. When I say “Khyber” here, I don’t mean physical caves; I mean the demiplanes where demons are bound and born. Essentially, the Ghaash’kala raid the Abyss to obtain resources that aren’t available on the material plane.

Needless to say, this is the very tip of the iceberg… but I look forward to explaining in greater detail when it’s possible to do so.

I have a new group of players. They would love to play or a team related to Greensingers or to Ashbounds. But I feel like Greensingers are nice people singing and getting drunk in the almost-innocent plane of Thelanis and Ashbounds are interesting only at low levels, since their natural enemies are humans. Would you have any suggestion for either a Greensinger or Ashbound campaign?

I have a very different view of each sect, and I think you could definitely run a campaign tied to either sect.

Let’s start with the Greensingers. I don’t see them as “nice people” or, for the most part, as drunkards. The Greensingers are concerned about the balance between the natural world and the planes… especially Thelanis and the Fey. It’s noted that “many Greensingers spend time in the halls of the Faerie Court before returning to Eberron to act as ambassadors, servants, and spies for the fey lords.” This same article notes that “These individuals can serve as guides to Thelanis (and perhaps other planes), but they cannot always be trusted; their motives are as mysterious as the fey themselves.”

If I was going to run a campaign based on the Greensingers, I’d start by developing their Fey patrons. I’d want members of the party to have ties to different patrons, and to work with each player to develop their own personal goals. These could be tied to threats that are passing from one realm to the other; to the plight of the Feyspires; or to ancient bargains or pacts established by the Fey themselves. I’d look at the depiction of Bast and the fae in Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, or in my own novels Gates of Night or The Fading Dream. In my view, a Greensinger campaign could have all the action and suspense of Mission Impossible and Ocean’s Eleven spread across two planes. The Greensingers are tied to a secret world most mortals know nothing about it, and they alone know how that world threatens and is threatened by Eberron.

As for the Ashbound, the last thing I’d worry about is that their threats are primarily low-level or human. The stereotype of the Ashbound is that they are crazy fanatics who run around burning down Vadalis magebreeding facilities, and some of them do. But the basic drive of the Ashbound is to protect the world from the unnatural influence of magic, and there’s a lot of that going around. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Mourning? If I was running an Ashbound campaign, I would emphasize the terrible threat posed by the irresponsible use of magic. Driven by greed and the thirst for power, the Five Nations and the Dragonmarked Houses are pushing the limits of magic further and further. Concern of a second Mourning is certainly a possibility: but you can also emphasize the smaller scale horrors such research has unleashed. Explore the biological weapons Jorasco’s nosomatic chirugeons are developing, or the war magics Minister Adal is exploring in his quest to ensure victory in the Next War. Expand on Magebreeding… the experiments that have gone horrible wrong and the creations that Vadalis cannot control. and that’s not even touching demons and other unnatural magical entities that are anathema in the eyes of the Ashbound. You can play the Ashbound as zealots who primarily bother humans… but you can also play them as champions fighting a secret crusade against threats and villains the common folk don’t know about. You can play them as fanatics… but they can just as easily be the supernatural world’s answer to the Men in Black, protecting the innocent from arcane terrors they never even know about.

What relations to Night Hags – any of the nine supposed to inhabit the Demon Wastes, and great Sora Kell herself – have with the Quori? We know that they had a quasi-neutral situation as ambassadors in the Dragon-Fiend wars, but they also have powers over dreams. How do the Quori feel about this, and, conversely, do the hags know about the previous incarnations of Dal Quor?

There’s no canon answer to this. If you’re asking how I’d run it: First off, keep in mind the vast scale of Dal Quor. Every creature that dreams visits Dal Quor… and we’ve also indicated that there’s regions of Dal Quor made up of the dreams of long-dead entities, and places like the Citadel of Fading Dreams. Natural dreams are created through the interaction of the dreamer’s subconscious with the mutable reality of Dal Quor. Quori have the power to override this and alter an individual’s dreams, but it’s not as if they are personally monitoring and shaping EVERY DREAM. As a result, if your wizard uses Dream or Nightmare, he’s not innately stepping on the toes of the Quori; he’ll only draw attention if he happens to mess with a dream a Quori IS directly shaping for some purpose.

So you COULD say that the Night Hags fly under the radar of the Quori; they have enough experience to recognize when a dream is being manipulated by Quori and choose to avoid interfering. However, I’d personally say that the Night Hags are known in Dal Quor – I think they’d extend their role as fiendish ambassador to include their interaction with Dal Quor. I think they’d HAVE to know more about the previous incarnations of Dal Quor than the Quori do, which would be an immediate basis for a relationship. It could be that they have helped shape the Quori reaction to the turn of the age in this and previous ages… they might have even set the Quori-Giant war in motion.

The short form, though, is what works best for your story? Do you want a Night Hag to be able to act as a neutral intermediary between the party and il-Lashtavar? Would you like to have a Night Hag with a bitter feud with a powerful Quori… or a deep love formed in a previous age, leading her to want to force the turn of the age in the hopes of restoring her lover’s spirit to the form she once knew? It’s up to you.

What is the difference between some of the Rajahs who seem to step on each other’s toes: (a) Bel Shalor is a spirit of treason, but so is Eldrantulku. Though I assume Bel Shalor is more of the classical temptor and corruptor of innocence. (b) Sul Katesh is the keeper of secrets, but Tul Oreshka also has power over them. (c) Dral Khatuur and the overlord served by Drulkalatar are spirits of the wild, though Dral Khatuur is more specialised in cold.

The Overlords of the First Age aren’t gods, and they can step on each other’s toes. The range of their influence is limited; if Rak Tulkhesh is influencing events in the Five Nations, he’s out of range to also be influencing events in Xen’drik – but there could be ANOTHER Overlord tied to war influencing Stormreach. With that said, the ones you’ve described are different from one another. I’d love to do a more detailed accounting of each of these when the DM’s Guild opens up for Eberron, but in short:

  • Bel Shalor is more about corruption while Eldrantulku is about chaos and discord.
  • Sul Khatesh is the master of arcane secrets, while Tul Oreshka knows the secrets that will drive you mad. Sul Khatesh knows incantations that can destroy cities or raise the dead; Tul Oreshka knows what your lover truly thinks about you, and what’s lurking underneath your bed in the dark.
  • Dral Khatuur embodies the chill that kills the harvest and saps the strength of the strongest man. The Wild Heart is the predator that lurks within, the rabid instincts that lie beneath the surface waiting to be unleashed.

The key is that the Overlords are fundamentally about the EVIL that their spheres can do – the things that cause fear and death. There’s nothing positive about Dral Khatuur; she embodies the killing cold. She’s not part of the natural cycle; she will bring unending winter. Likewise, the Feral Master is a corruptor of natural impulses, turning innocents into savage monsters.

Back on the WotC forums, in the days when they existed, you mentioned that you had details on Dral Khatuur and her place of imprisonment, but had to clear it with WotC whether you could release any information. Has there been any movement on this?

I have a 10,000 word backdrop on Dral Khatuur and her prison in the Frostfell. If Eberron is unlocked for the DM’s Guild I’ll see if I can revise it and post it there.

How do various Rajahs – or, for that matter, gods – interact with planes that are within their spheres: Dral Khultur with Risia, Rak Tulkesh with Savarath, the Wild Heart with Lamannia, Katashka with Mabar and Dollurh, and so forth?

As I mentioned above, Eberron is touched and influenced by all the planes. The Overlords are fundamentally spirits of Eberron and as such reflect how the planes influence mortals as opposed to having some sort of personal tie to the planes. So Tul Oreshka is strongly tied to Madness and has a closer connection to Xoriat than to the other planes… but that’s just an amplified version of the connection ALL mortals have to Xoriat, and it doesn’t mean that she has some sort of bond to or influence over the Daelkyr or other creatures of Xoriat.

That’s all I have time for today. As always, leave your questions and comments below!

Dragonmarks 5/02/16: Ravenloft and Cyre

My last call for Eberron questions produced over forty questions, many quite complex. So it’s going to be some time before I get to them all. But let’s get started with one of the big ones… though as always, important disclaimers. Nothing I say here is official. These are my thoughts – often off the top of my head – and how I might handle things in MY campaign. I may contradict canon sources. As with all things, use what you like and ignore what you don’t. With that said…

Do you have any advice for incorporating Ravenloft in an Eberron Campaign?

Ravenloft is set in the Demiplane of Dread, a pocket dimension shaped by the enigmatic Dark Powers. These mysterious forces draw realms from the material plane, along with individuals of great evil; these become the Dreadlords who rule over these domains. The most infamous Dreadlord is Strahd von Zarovich, who rules over his domain of Barovia from Castle Ravenloft.

In tying Ravenloft to Eberron, the first question is whether you want the Demiplane of Dread to serve as a bridge between realities – if you want to have Lord Soth ruling a piece of Krynn, or to say that Barovia is a piece of the Forgotten Realms. If not, it’s a simple matter to say that all of the domains in the Demiplane of Dread are drawn from different points in Eberron’s history… especially if you assert that time passes differently in the Domain of Dread, so while a domain may have disappeared thousands of years ago, it may have only been years or centuries from the perspective of those trapped within it. Here’s a few possibilities to consider.

  • Ancient Karrnath. Barovia could easily have been a fiefdom in pre-Galifar Karrnath. With this approach you could use Strahd and his history exactly as written. Alternately, you could keep the basic story of Strahd, but change him to an infamous character from the history of Khorvaire. My first choice would be to make him Karrn the Conqueror, the king who first sought to unite the Five Nations by force… and failed. In this model, Karrn retreated to his ancestral stronghold of Ravenloft after his defeat, drawing his family and closest allies to him – and it is here that you could overlay the existing story of Strahd. This would be interesting because it would present Barovia as Karrn’s idealized vision of what Karrnath (and the Five Nations under his rule) should have been. It would also present the vision of a ruthless, vampire Karrn king… an interesting contrast and foil to Kaius III of present day Karrnath. And it opens the possibility that Karrn/Strahd could be seeking a way to return to Eberron, still hoping to unite the Five Nations under his rule. If I ran Ravenloft in Eberron, this is the path I would likely take.
  • Ohr Kaluun. This is one of the pre-Sundering kingdoms of Sarlona. Its people were known both for their strong mystical traditions and their dark practices, and it’s easy to imagine that a Dreadlord such as Hazlik could be drawn from this place. One of the distinctive aspects of Ohr Kaluun is the War Labyrinths used as citadels by the ruling families; a haunted fortress maze could certainly fit into Ravenloft.
  • The Dhakaani. Who says domains have to be dominated by humans? The Demiplane of Dread could contain a fiefdom plucked out of the Dhakaani empire at the height of its power. If you want to add a little more Lovecraftian flavor to your Gothic horror, the hobgoblin Dreadlord could secretly be running a Cult of the Dragon Below; rather than being undead, she could be bonded to life-sustaining symbionts.
  • The Qabalrin. Little is known about this ancient Elven civilization, aside from the fact that they possessed vast knowledge of the arts of necromancy and produced the first humanoid vampires and liches. They are thought to have been decadent and cruel; it’s said that they learned their secrets directly from the Shadow, and that Aureon himself destroyed their civilization. You could easily say that a piece of the Qabalrin survived the destruction that formed the Ring of Storms by being drawn into the Demiplane of Dread… or perhaps, that the entire civilization of the Qabalrin was drawn into the Demiplane, and that the meteor strike was an unrelated event that occurred in the aftermath. As the Qabalrin are thought to have been the greatest mortal masters of necromancy, it would be easy to say that Vecna is one of the first Qabalrin liches.

While you can work any or all of these options into an Eberron Ravenloft campaign, there’s another possibility that has even greater potential.

Could Cyre be tied to Ravenloft?

Four years ago the nation of Cyre was consumed by the Mourning, a catastrophe that left twisted remnants of the nation surrounded by dead-gray mists. As mists are the traditional hallmark of the Dark Powers, it would be an easy thing to say that the Mourning was nothing less than Cyre being consumed by the Demiplane of Dread. If you decide to follow this path, a critical question is just how much of Cyre you want to incorporate into the Demiplane. Is the entire country there? Or did only a small region survive the transition, such as the city of Metrol?

Per existing canon, the mists spread across Cyre on the Day of Mourning, killing or transforming anything caught within them. If you follow this path, you could say that those things twisted by the Mourning died in Eberron but lived on in the Demiplane of Dread.At first, transportation to this Dread Cyre might seem like a dream come true to Cyran PCs. Here they could find villages destroyed by the Mourning, friends or family thought long dead, or other treasures or secrets long lost in core Eberron. But over time the full extent of the realm’s corruption would be revealed. Mad Cannith artificers are performing horrific experiments, perhaps blending human and warforged to create something new and terrible. A legendary bard is perfecting a performance that drives all who hear it mad. And, of course, no one can escape the mists that surround the nation. Queen Dannel rules with an iron fist, justifying this cruelty as necessary to preserve the nation through this vital time. But what is the truth of Dannel’s tale? Is she the domain’s Dreadlord, and if so, what evil deed caused her and her nation to be drawn into Dread? Were her misdeeds tied to personal passion or ambition, or did she travel down a dark path in a quest to save her people? Does she believe that she HAS saved Cyre by pulling it out of the Last War? Or is she searching for a way to return the nation to Eberron… and if so, has she developed a horrific weapon that will ensure Cyran dominion upon its return?

A possible twist on this is to start a campaign with the player characters in Cyre on the Day of Mourning (you’d want to make clear to the players that they’ve never heard of the Mourning, and that the war is still going on). They see the dead-grey mists, but when the mists pass over them… nothing happens. Everything appears to be the same. Continue the adventure as normal, but the players will eventually learn of the impassible wall of mist surrounding the borders of the nation, and discover the slowly spreading darkness that is corrupting every aspect of their land. What will they do? Say they find a way to return… but discover that Dannel has been working on a horrific weapon of mass destruction, and that it was this work that drew the nation into Dread? Will they seek to return Cyre to Eberron if it could result in a far greater horror than the Mourning being unleashed on the rest of Khorvaire? Or will they remain in the Demiplane of Dread and find a way to live with the darkness?

What are the Dark Powers? 

Ravenloft is shaped by the Dark Powers, entities that both empower and torment the Dreadlords. The Dark Powers are largely enigmatic, but it may help you to determine their true nature in the contact of Eberron. Here’s a few possibilities.

  • The Dark Powers could be one or more of the Overlords of the First Age – the fiendish masters of the Lords of Dust banished over a hundred thousand years ago. The Demiplane of Dread could potentially be inside an Overlord (metaphysically speaking). The corrupt nature of the Dreadlord creates a link to the Overlord, who then consumes the Dreadlord and the surrounding domain and gains strength by slowly digesting it. Tul Oreshka (AKA The Voice In The Darkness) would be a good match from the Overlords that have been named so far, but you could easily create a new Overlord for this purpose.
  • The prime spirit of Dal Quor is il-Lashtavar, “The Darkness That Dreams.” The Demiplane of Dread could in fact be a part of Dal Quor. Each domain is literally the nightmare of its tormented Dreadlord. These domains serve as anchors that help il-Lashtavar avoid the turning of the age that will end its existence. A question to address with this is whether the Quori are aware of this and interact with it, or whether this is a private practice of the great darkness that its minions know nothing about.
  • Mabar is the consuming darkness. It is always seeking a foothold in Eberron, an opprtunity to consume its light and life. Mabar is the source of the negative energy that sustains the undead, and they are its unwitting touchstones into the world. The Dark Powers could be the prime spirits of Mabar, and the process of absorbing domains and corrupting Dreadlords could be part of a slow quest to consume all of Eberron. This would be a way to explain why Cyre is far larger than any other domain; the connection is growing stronger each time, and the next consumption could take an entire continent.

These are just a few ideas, and you don’t have to go to such extremes to use Ravenloft in your game. If you’ve done something different with Ravenloft in Eberron, post your ideas in the comments!

What are some easy points of reference for Cyran culture? We know that Karrnath is generally dour and proud of its military heritage and that the Brelish are cosmopolitan and welcoming, but descriptions of Cyre tend to be “was welcoming, now is a smouldering wasteland.” What values would a Cyran character have? What was its niche back when it still existed? 

The great institutions of Galifar were spread throughout the Five Nations, and while they belonged to the kingdom they had considerable impact on the nations in which they lay. Karrnath has Rekkenmark, and has always prided itself on martial skill and discipline. Aundair has the Arcane Congress, and values knowledge and all things arcane. Thrane has Flamekeep; while not a branch of Galifar, it is still an institution that has shaped the nation. Breland has the King’s Citadel. Back in the day this organization served all of Galifar, but it was based in Breland… and while Brelish may be cosmopolitan and welcoming, they are also extremely pragmatic. Essentially, if you had to assign classes to the nations, Karrnath is the fighter; Aundair the wizard; Thrane the cleric; and Breland is the rogue. So where does this leave Cyre?

Cyre was the heart of Galifar. Thronehold was the literal capital, but all the arms and various attendants of government spilled out from the island into Cyre. The nation was a center for trade, but beyond this it was the nexus of art and culture within Galifar. Breland had a strong industrial capacity, but Cyre produced the finest things in the kingdom. Poets, playwrights, artisans of all sorts: if you were at the top of your field, then Metrol is where you belonged. Add to this the fact that Cyre was the ancestral home of House Cannith and seat of most of its Forgeholds. Essentially, the other four nations had a strong single focus; Cyre is where the best of all of those things came together, or at least that’s what a Cyran would tell you. If I had to put a class to it, Cyre would be the bard. Of all the nations, it was the most charismatic, and its people valued diplomacy, commerce, and art over brute strength, devout faith, or pure knowledge.

With that said, no accounting of Cyran character would be complete without considering the impact of the Last War. The war lasted nearly a hundred years, and any human Player Character from Cyre will know no other life. Here’s a few things to consider:

  • They were in the right. Mishann ir’Wynarn was Jarot’s rightful heir. Mishann should have been Queen of Galifar; the Last War began because others challenged her rightful succession. The Cyrans know with absolute certainty that they are the only nation whose actions were beyond reproach, that it was the greed and betrayal of the other nations that destroyed Galifar. The loss of their nation simply reinforces this: it is the ultimate injustice, as they alone were truly in the right. As a side note, Mishann was assassinated by the Order of the Emerald Claw. While this was relatively early in the war, it’s still a potential foundation for prejudice against Karrns in general and the Blood of Vol specifically.
  • Surrounded by enemies. Karrnath, Thrane, Breland, and towards the end of the war Darguun and Valenar. Every other nation had one or more relatively secure borders, areas of the nation that were less affected by the ongoing conflict. There was no safe haven in Cyre, and they were always girding for the next attack.This fostered a strong community spirit – it’s us against the world – and led to…
  • Resourcefulness. Cyre didn’t have the military power of Karrnath or the mystical might of Aundair. It lacked Breland’s spy network or the divine force of Thrane. Cyre had to somehow hold off all of these foes. This led Cyre to employ more warforged and mercenary forces than any other nation (something that didn’t work out so well in Valenar and Darguun), but it also forced the Cyran people to become extremely adaptable and resourceful – stretching resources, adapting tactics to deal with their many and varied foes, and always being prepared for an attack from a new quarter. This trait has served Cyrans well as refugees, as they must continue to make the most of limited resources and constant adversity.
  • Artistry. The luxurious lifestyle of old Cyre was quickly lost as all resources were devoted to the war, but the people always treasured the fine things they still had: music, dance, literature. The most heartwrenching and uplifting works of art of this time still come from Cyre, and most Cyrans hone some sort of artistic talent, be it dabbling in an instrument, telling stories, or simply drawing in the dirt. This continues to be a source of pride for Cyrans in their exile; whatever they have lost, they know they have the talents to create new treasures. In this, there is some common ground with Aundairians, who place great value on wit and knowledge. However, the Aundiarians are more naturally scholars while Cyrans are artists. The finest histories of the war were produced in Aundair; the most heartwrenching songs came out of Cyre. Likewise, throughout the war, Aundair was able to maintain its ivory towers. Cyran artists lived and worked with mud, sweat, and tears.

Cyrans are proud. They may not have been the best warriors, wizards, or priests. But they were in the right from the very beginning of the war. They stood back to back against the enemies that surrounded them. Even when the war took everything from them, they have held on to the culture that defined them. Once Cyran tailors worked with the finest silks, and now they work with rags; but they still find ways to make things that are unique and beautiful.

Phew! Two questions down, thirty-eight to go. Share your thoughts or questions on Ravenloft, Cyre, Eberron, or anything else below!

Where Have I Been?

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This is my first post of 2016. What gives? Well, it all began in January, when I was kidnapped by the Hairy-Handed Hoogleworts from Under-the-Bed and forced to dig for nightmares in the Dream Mines of Tangleskell Junction. After escaping that, I found myself on the Train of Thought headed to the Hectic Hills. And then…

Actually, it was more about reaching the end of a journey, which is to say finishing Phoenix: Dawn Command. Dan Garrison and I have been working on Phoenix for almost three years. From June to October of 2015 I was pretty much getting up and working on Phoenix until I went to sleep, and most of my social activity for the last two years has been playtesting. It has been a thrilling journey and I can’t wait to share the game with everyone, but it was also somewhat exhausting. After I turned in the final manuscript, I ended up getting pneumonia and being out of circulation for a month. Between the crunch to finish writing and being sick I fell off social media, and once I got back on my feet I’ve been too busy to get back online.

Busy doing what? Well, just because I’m done writing Phoenix doesn’t mean its journey is over. The Twogether crew has spent the last few months dealing with print and layout issues; that’s not my personal specialty, but I’ve been doing the best I can to help with the process. Beyond that, I’m working on four new board and card games. One is a new set of Gloom, which I’ll discuss in more detail in an upcoming blog post. The other three are unfortunately all under wraps right now. I’m excited about all of them, and I’m looking forward to revealing more when I can. And along the way, I managed to sneak in a contribution to Widow’s Walk, the upcoming expansion to Betrayal At House On The HillBetrayal is a long-time favorite of mine, and it was great to have a chance to lend a hand.

I don’t want to go on too much farther, but I am going to do my best to keep the site updated more regularly moving forward. Here’s a quick summary of a few important topics.

When will you see Phoenix: Dawn Command? After a variety of delays, Phoenix is finally going to press. The printer predicts that the game will be ready to ship on May 30th. After that it still has to make it’s way across the sea, fight through customs, and then get from us out to backers. So I can’t yet say exactly when you’ll be able to order it or find it in your FLGS, but it will be sometime in summer. As we get closer to that date, Dan and I will be doing more posts about the world and the game. One of the most exciting things for me is to have a new world that I can explore without any restrictions; once the core game is out, I’ll certainly be developing it in more depth.

What’s up with Eberron? I don’t have any concrete news for you at this time, but I remain optimistic. The DM’s Guild has recently unlocked Ravenloft as a setting, and I am certain that Eberron will eventually get the same treatment; it’s a question of when. If you want that to be sooner rather than later, it never hurts to express your wishes to WotC on social media(say, at on twitter). There’s a lot of topics I am keen to explore as soon as it is possible to do so – so fingers crossed that it won’t be too long! In the meantime, I will be getting started with new Eberron Q&As here, starting within a week.

Where am I going? I have a few appearances locked in at the moment…

What am I backing? It’s a big month for crowdfunding.

  • Acadecon. Hosted by the RPG Academy, with a great line-up of potential guests.
  • Pyramid Arcade. I’ve been playing games with Looney Pyramids for over twenty years, and this is the ultimate Pyramid package.
  • Tak. I had the opportunity to play Tak on the JoCo Cruise, and it’s a great abstract strategy game. Plus, if you lose, you can always sneer and say “Yes, but that wasn’t a beautiful game.”
  • Unknown Armies. I’ve never actually played the original Unknown Armies, but I’ve heard many good things about it… so I definitely want to check out the new edition.

If you know other things worthy of attention, post them in the comments!

That’s all for now, but I’ll be posting an Eberron Q&A next: ask any questions below!

Guest Blog: Phoenix Is On The March!

Big news: Phoenix is in layout! It’s been a long stretch of writing and editing, and I’m going to be off the internets for a little while. In the meantime, we wanted to let you see Phoenix through the eyes of some of our playtesters and developers… starting with Rich Malena of the Going Last Podcast.

FullSizeRender (1)Hey folks! I’ve been given a chance to give you all a behind-the-scenes peek into the world of Phoenix: Dawn Command. For the last two years, I’ve been fortunate to sit down at the table and learn the game from both Keith and Dan, and see the eventual changes in the Phoenix system, the Schools, and the missions over the course of the game’s development. As we grow ever closer to the final release of the game, I wanted to share a couple of these new ideas that I just can’t stop talking about.

One of my favorite progressions to watch is the evolution of the Schools. The core concepts of each School remains consistent, but the lessons and traits have been repeatedly refined and improved. From the beginning, many of the Schools—Bitter, Shrouded, Devoted, and Durant—felt solid and uniquely tied to the mechanics of the game. Devoted could easily use their cards to assist their friends to a unique degree. The Shrouded master skills and can add important conditions to their enemies as they strike from the shadows. The Durant is an unstoppable defensive powerhouse and the Bitter gleefully uses their wounds to strengthen their vicious attacks. If you played any of these four in demos this year, you’ll be happy to see how their roles have been tightened up while keeping true to their original design.

However, our latest playthrough this summer featured the newest versions of the Elemental and the Forceful. Since these two Schools weren’t sent out with the demo set, most playtesters haven’t had the chance to see how they work. Let me see if I can help!

The Elemental is a whirlwind of arcane forces, who uses their very life force to make their powers even more devastating. In game terms, the Elemental has the ability to wound themselves to gain Sparks, which then fuel Lessons and abilities. Unfortunately, since healing is rare in Phoenix, this cycle often ends with the Elemental burned away before the end of the mission. The surge of power is amazing to watch, but being too careless often leaves a Wing without one of the most potent weapons in an important situation.

However, if they’re lucky, the Wing may also have a Forceful along to help make up for it. The Forceful is a master of motion, with a unique ability to cycle through their deck and can sometimes play half their cards on a given check. The Forceful feels fast. The Forceful can also gain momentum throughout a Mission, slowly ramping up to ever more powerful levels. When they’ve reaching maximum capacity, a Forceful is a sight to behold.

The thing that continues to amaze me about Phoenix is that the Schools play so differently. The simple mechanic—familiar to anyone who play’s deckbuilders—leads to an enormous amount of variability in playstyles. Even within Schools, there are plenty of opportunities for choice. My Shrouded is mainly focused on Skill spreads, but that’s because I intentionally decided to play more of a scholar than an assassin. But I could have certainly decided to go the other way. Seeing all the ways people are choosing to play Phoenix makes me really excited about leaping in and trying a new School someday soon!

It’s also been a ton of fun to see the growth of the Missions that are included in the core set! The story is tightly woven together to create an outstanding narrative arc that leads you through the world. I really don’t want to give away any of the secrets and surprises you’re all preparing for, but believe me, the story is going to be worth it. A lot of early ideas have been reimagined and given new mechanics to ensure that every Phoenix needs to be on their toes and ready for brand new experiences.

From the beginning, Phoenix has been a game about telling stories. Stories of sacrifice in the face of the terrifying Dread. Stories of heroism when everything is on the line. Stories of choices and consequences. Every single mechanic in the game is built with this narrative in mind. Even after two years of playing Phoenix, I still can’t help but tell stories when I act. I never get tired of talking about how my character moves throughout the Daylit World, or listening to my friends describe their own actions in our fight against the Dread.

As we get closer to the day when everyone has the chances I’ve had to play Phoenix: Dawn Command, I can’t help but feel so very excited for all the stories that are about to be told. After seeing the art, the rules, the descriptions, the challenges, and most importantly the care that is going into making this game a reality, I’m certain that no one is ready for all of the surprises in store.

Best wishes, future Phoenixes!

Rich Malena shows you why you need advanced mathematics in your life, and is basically as close as you can get to a real Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor. Rich also can’t shut up about games on GoingLast.net, at youtube.com/RichardMalena, or on Twitter @rmalena.

Where Have I Been?

ShrikeIt’s been two months since my last update, and you may wonder if I’ve fallen off the face of the internet. In fact I have been chained to my desk working on my upcoming RPG Phoenix: Dawn Command. We just finalized the card files yesterday, the adventure path is with the editor, and we’re just a few weeks away from sending the game to the printer. Once that’s done, I’ll get back on a regular blogging schedule… but for now, all my writing time is dedicated to Phoenix. In the meantime, there are a few things I wanted to share.

EXTRA LIFE

The Extra Life fundraising event is just a few weeks away. Originally I was scheduled to play with the Wizards of the Coast Team, on a team with Erin Evans, Bruce Cordell, Teos Abadia and DM Susan Morris. It’s an incredible team, but I’m chained to my desk until Phoenix is at the printer and I can’t get away until it’s done, even for an adventure as amazing as this. However, it is a fantastic cause and the WotC marathon should be an amazing event; I urge you to check out the player links in this paragraph and back someone if you can!

WOTC EBERRON FORUMS CLOSING DOWN

On October 29th, Wizards of the Coast is shutting down their community site. I’ve been posting on the WotC forums since Eberron first began, and I’m sad to see them go. In particular, I’m sad to lose the Eberron forum. However, there are a few options. The Piazza is urging people to transfer Eberron material from the WotC site to the Piazza’s dedicated Eberron Forum. The venerable ENWorld is also encouraging people to transfer favorite posts and threads to their Emergency Evacuation Lifeboat. I don’t have time to transfer posts myself, but if anyone has enjoyed the Eberron forum over the years, feel free to move a favorite thread to a new home.

Now it’s back to Phoenix for me!

My GenCon Schedule

 

EPSON MFP imageWe’re closing in on the finish line for Phoenix: Dawn Command development, and artists Rich Ellis and Grace Allison surprised me with a portrait of my own for my birthday… which seems like an appropriate image as I prepared to set out for GenCon.

As Phoenix is still half a year away from release, we’re not doing extensive Phoenix demos at GenCon… Ace marshal Jeremiah Shepersky is running six sessions of Phoenix at GenCon, but they filled up very quickly. However, if you have questions about Phoenix or would like to see the prototype, come to my hangout on Saturday!

So, without further ado, here’s all the places you can find me at GenCon!

THURSDAY, JULY 30th

8 PM – 9 PM: THIS DORKINGTON LIFE

Hosted by the Damsels of Dorkington, “The Damsels & Friends tell their most epic, hilarious, & butt warming tales from their nerdy lives.” I will be telling a story and hanging out.

FRIDAY, JULY 31st

NOON – 1 PM: BUILDING GAMES IN THE GARAGE

“You’ve got a great idea for a game but how do you put together a prototype to find out if it works? First-hand advice on ways to make a game a reality.” Other panelists include James Ernest, Paul Peterson, Matt Forbeck and JT Smith. They know stuff.

1 PM – 2 PM: CREATIVE CHARACTER DESIGN

“Every game has a story. Every story has characters. Heroes are defined by their villains. How do you create compelling, thought provoking characters? Learn how with this panel of experts.” I’ll be discussing this topic with Andrew Peregrin, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and Bryan Tillman.

3 PM – 4 PM: TITANSGRAVE Q&A WITH WIL!

“Join a lively discussion with Wil Wheaton, Ryan Wheaton, Chris Pramas, & others, discussing the creation of Titansgrave RPG for the RPG Show!” This year I had the opportunity to help create Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana. I’ll be talking about it with Wil Wheaton, who’s just this guy.

4 PM – 5 PM: THE DOWN LOW ON THE DOWNLOAD

The creator of Fluxx & the creator of Gloom discuss the ins & outs of hosting their new podcast, The Download.” Andy and I will actually be recording an episode live, and talking with one another and with anyone who shows up about whatever topics arise!

5 PM – 6 PM: THE VERY GLOOMIEST AFTERNOON TEA PARTY

“Join the anti-festivities as we mix Gloom, Cthulhu Gloom, Fairytale Gloom, and Munchkin Gloom for maximum despair. Depressing promos for all. BYOT to compete for the coveted Gloomiest Teacup Trophy.” The event starts at 4 PM, but due to the Download I won’t show up until five.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 1ST

3 PM – 4 PM: ATLAS GAMES TELLS YOU HOW TO MAKE AWESOME RPGS

We like roleplaying games. Join us & fellow travelers including Keith Baker, Cam Banks, Robin D. Laws, John Nephew, & Jeff Tidball to talk about making great RPGs.”

4:30 PM – 6:30 PM: HANG OUT IN THE HYATT!

This one isn’t a GenCon Event – it’s an entirely informal thing I like to do. From 4:30 to 6:30 I’ll be hanging out in the lobby of the Hyatt. I plan to talk about Phoenix: Dawn Command, Eberron, Gloom and anything else people want to discuss. It’s completely informal – stop by any time and stay as long as you want!

SUNDAY, AUGUST 2ND

11 AM – NOON: WORLD DESIGN

“What’s the first step in creating a new world for fiction or gaming? We’ll look at the questions you need to answer & the different approaches you can take.” I’ll be tackling this topic with Brannon Boren, Lynne Hardy and Elsa Sjunneson Henry.

 

Villains of Eberron

As I was writing about the daelkyr in my last Eberron post, it occurred to me that my emphasis on how alien and unknowable they are might make it hard for people to understand how to work them into a story. Eberron has a host of major villains ready to go, and sometimes it’s not always clear what differentiates them. So I figured I’d do a quick run-down of the big bad guys.

The Dreaming Dark seeks to take control of mortal civilization in order to preserve the current status quo in Dal Quor. Thus, its primary goal is conquest. However, the quori prefer to conquer in such a way that their subjects embrace their oppressors. If you look to Sarlonan history, they instigated a series of wars and political upheavals and then the Inspired emerged as the saviors who brought order to this shattered land. They are more likely to do the same thing in Khorvaire than to invade with a Riedran army. It’s entirely possible that they instigated the Last War as the first stage of this plan. The question is who they will use as their figurehead leaders. They don’t need to replicate the culture of Riedra in Khorvaire: they simply need a scenario in which mortals embrace a new, absolute ruler. Is Queen Aurala secretly a quori figurehead (which would explain her warlike ambitions)? Have they assumed control of one or more of the Dragonmarked houses? Whatever it is, the main role of the quori is to cause chaos and then to provide a seemingly perfect solution.

The Daelkyr are essentially alien scientists and artists, and their primary goal is change. When they first arrived, they engaged the Empire of Dhakaan with armies of aberrations. They took creatures of Eberron and twisted them to produce monstrosities. For the last seven thousand years they’ve been bound in Khyber, and many wonder why they haven’t been working harder to escape. The main point is that they aren’t interested in conquest: they are interested in transformation. Even from the depths they can work through their cults and their agents; read this blog post for information on why someone would be a part of a daelkyr cult. They may BE changing the world in ways people don’t even realize; one interesting idea is that the dragonmarks were actually created by the daelkyr. If you WANT a daelkyr to burst out of Khyber with a devastating army of aberrations, you can have that. Just bear in mind that they aren’t seeking to conquer or colonize Eberron: they simply want to change it. If you’re going to use a daelkyr as a major villain, think about how it seeks to change the world.

The Lords of Dust are driven to free their ancient Overlords. Thus they are driven by Prophecy. The release of an Overlord will likely shatter modern civilization. Thus the Lords of Dust have little interest in conquest… unless conquest is necessary to release the Overlord. Each Overlord has a sequence of events that must come to pass to release it – a combination to its lock. It’s up to you to decide what that combination is. So if you WANT the combination to involve the conquest of Aundair by the Carrion Tribes of the Demon Wastes, than the Lords of Dust will be working to conquer Aundair. You could have a Lord of the Ring plotline – they need to recover a lost artifact and return it to a specific location at a specific time – in which case the conflict would all be based around the artifact and those who possess it. Or their actions could be far more subtle: they need Queen Aurala to restore Galifar, and thus they are helping her conquer the other Five Nations, but they are acting behind the scenes and even she doesn’t know it. Another way to look at the Lords of Dust is The Terminator: They have a vision of the future, and they are taking the actions required to make that future come to pass. Their actions don’t always make sense to us because we don’t understand the dominoes they are lining up. Why are they helping Aurala? What’s that do for them? We’ll find out when she’s murdered on the day of her coronation and Sul Khatesh is released from her bonds.

The Aurum is an alliance of powerful and wealthy mortals, and they seek to increase their own power and influence; as such they are often driven by Greed and Ambition. In a sense, they are a cabal of Bond villains, and pretty much any James Bond plot could be laid at the feet of the Aurum. While they work together when it serves their purposes, their schemes are often the schemes of an individual Aurum concordian – thus, foiling a plot doesn’t necessarily make you the enemy of the entire Aurum. Likewise, their schemes are often on a smaller scale than those of the daelkyr or the Dreaming Dark. They want to acquire a particular thing, gain control of an organization or piece of land, eliminate a particular person. Where the daelkyr and the quori are cosmic threats, the Aurum are fundamentally human villains (even if they are dwarves or elves).

The Emerald Claw are driven by Erandis’ desire to restore her dragonmark and gain ultimate power. Like the Aurum, their actions are generally more straightforward and serve a specific purpose. Erandis is going to set off a necrotic generator that will turn everyone in Sharn into a zombie because she hopes that harnessing that power will unlock her mark. She’s going to send an army of undead against Arcanix because she needs a particular necromantic tome or artifact. The actions of her followers may be cloaked in political schemes – many agents of the Emerald Claw believe they are laying the groundwork for Karrnathi dominance – but ultimately, any large-scale Emerald Claw action is somehow about increasing Erandis’ power or furthering her personal goals.

I’ve got to get back to work on Phoenix, so I’ll stop here. How about you? Which villains are your favorites, and what have you done with them?