Catching Up and the Eldeen Reaches

It’s been over a month since my last post: where have I been?

There’s been quite a few things that kept me off the internet. At Twogether we’ve been hard at work getting Illimat to press. Gloom In Space just came out, and I’ve been working on another game you’ll be seeing later in the year: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Card Game. Beyond this, I’ve been dealing with family issues and helping organize gaming on the JoCo Cruise. And to top it all off, I have the flu.

So: I’ve been busy. And I’m going to continue to be busy for the forseeable future. I’m a Guest of Honor at MidSouthCon later this month; I’m working on a new new game, just recorded an episode of a new podcast, and I’m still planning a range of support for Phoenix: Dawn Command in the next few months.

However, I don’t want to let too much time go by without addressing Eberron questions, so let’s get back to it.

Would people from Varna and other eastern settlements in the Eldeen Reaches reconsider going back under Aundairian sovereignty if the Ashbound and the Children of Winter increase attacks against those “civilized” lands and the Wardens are reluctant or unable to protect them? 

As with most things in Eberron, it’s certainly possible if it’s a story you want to explore. It’s especially plausible in Varna, as House Vadalis maintains strong ties to Aundair and would be happy to see Varna return to Aundair.

The critical thing to understand is that the split between Aundair and the Eldeen wasn’t a spur of the moment decision during the Last War. The bandits were the excuse but not the root cause. Instead, it was the culmination of events that had been brewing for a thousand years. The Wardens of the Wood predate Galifar, and always had ties to the people of the Reaches. Galifar united the Five Nations by conquest. His daughter Aundair was set over the northeast, and she sought to instill her values in the people of the region: her love of education, civilization, and arcane magic. But the further you get from Fairhaven, the more people hold to the old ways. When the Eldeen Reaches seceded from Aundairan, they weren’t suddenly allying with mysterious druids they knew nothing about; they were throwing off centuries of oppression and returning to their ancestral roots.

Varna is an exception. It has always been the seat of House Vadalis. It’s the largest city in the Reaches, a center of industry, and it has the strongest ties to Aundair. It’s the logical place for a pro-Aundairian movement to arise.

With that said: the critical question is why the Wardens wouldn’t take action if the Children of Winter and the Ashbound became increasingly aggressive. Small raids may be overlooked, but large-scale action should draw a response from Oalian and the Wardens; that’s what the Wardens are for. One option is that they simply can’t defend the Reaches — that the Ashbound or Children of Winter have had a sudden surge in numbers and power, perhaps drawing members away from the Wardens. If this is the campaign plan, I’d want to explore WHY the sect in question has suddenly gained such power. What’s behind the surge? Why do they feel expanded aggression is necessary? Alternately, it could be that the Wardens are unwilling to interfere… but again, why is this? If innocents are being hurt, why won’t the Wardens take action? If it were me, the answer to these questions would be a critical part of the story of the campaign.

Are there still any operating shrines to or faithful of the Silver Flame in the Eldeen Reaches since the time of the purge?

Excellent question, and one that hasn’t been explored as deeply as it probably should have been. The Silver Flame gained a foothold in the region when the templars fought the lycanthropic plague. This is an example of a time when the Wardens couldn’t defend the region against a threat, and many placed their faith in the force that saved them. With that said, it’s important to emphasis that this is the stronghold of the so-called “Pure Flame.” These are people who first encountered the Flame as a tool of war. It’s this splinter of the faith that has produced people like Cardinal Dariznu. Charity and compassion aren’t key components of the Flame you’ll find here, and a friar from Thrane may find little common ground with a templar from the Reaches.

I guess those faithful are mistrusted by the local shifters…

That goes both ways. Followers of the Pure Flame generally consider shifters to be tainted by lycanthropy… essentially, that they are werewolves-in-waiting, who could at any time fall prey to the corruption in their blood. And it was the followers of the Pure Flame that instigated the worst of the atrocities in the inquisition that followed the Lycanthropic Purge — driven by an understandable hunger for vengeance on the force that nearly destroyed them. So yeah, local shifters will generally dislike followers of the Flame.

Are purified shifters seen as traitors by others?

I don’t think “traitor” is the right word, but it’s something that would be incredibly rare. The primary faith of the Flame in the region is the Pure Flame, and per the Pure Flame shifters are cursed. So a Shifter follower of the Pure Flame would be someone who in all likelihood distrusts their own kind; it’s sort of like a half-fiend embracing the faith, likely believing that it can help them overcome the evil in their lineage.

With that said, the core beliefs of the Silver Flame aren’t prejudiced against shifters, and a shifter cleric from Flamekeep wouldn’t feel this way; however, most locals don’t know the difference, as the Pure Flame is the only form of the Silver Flame they’ve encountered.

Could a surge in the other sects be perhaps the outcome of a ploy by queen Aurala?

I wouldn’t see that as happening directly, but indirectly, certainly. The Ashbound are deeply opposed to the abuse (or for that matter, the use) of arcane magic. Imagine that Aurala makes a gift of mystical tools to villages in the Reaches – a kindly peace offering. Cleansing stones, everburning lamps, some new system of wards, or especially something that affects the natural order – something that blocks disease, affects the fertility of the region, etc – could push the Children of Winter or Ashbound to aggression removing this unnatural thing. Thus Aurala is doing something generous and the sects blocking it are seen as heartless and cruel. Of course, if you want to keep it interesting, it could be that Aurala’s magic WILL disrupt natural patterns; there’s no reason the Ashbound can’t actually be RIGHT with their concerns.

 

Or a rogue dragon trying to shape the prophecy by weakening the Wardens or furthering chaos in the Reaches?

Seems more like something that would be tied to the Lords of Dust, and the Lords of Dust would have a more logical basis for having an entrenched network of agents in the region that could help manipulate events.

If it was a Gatekeeper that awakened Oalian (if it was), why did he found a new sect of druid faith?

Why do new religions evolve, or existing religions change? Tira Miron was a paladin of Dol Arrah, and she became the Voice of the Silver Flame. Oalian is a unique individual. He’s bound to the natural world in a way the druid who awakened him never could be. He has a unique perspective and centuries of experience – and in that time, he created the sect he believed the region needed.

How has having Droaam as a new neighbor and influenced the Reaches?

Before she joined her sisters as a ruler of Droaam, Sora Maenya was the Terror of the Towering Woods. She’s not a new threat, and the Towering Woods have never been safe. That’s why the Wardens of the Wood exist: to protect outsiders from the wood, and to protect the wood from outsiders. They’ve clashed with the Znir Pact and the Wind Howlers long, long before Droaam ever existed. If anything, hostilities between the Reaches and Droaam have probably DROPPED since Droaam became a nation as the Daughters have tighter control over forces that would have otherwise engaged in random raids and skirmishes.

Did the Greensingers arise from other druidic sects like the case with Oalian founding the Wardens? 

Essentially. The druidic traditions in the Reaches can be ultimately traced back to the Gatekeepers. But like Oalian, the inhabitants of the Reaches — shifters, human settlers, others — learned these traditions after the Xoriat incursion, and weren’t as focused on the Gatekeeper mission. Imagine that a member of the Chamber founds an order of wizards and teaches them arcane magic to use to find a demon. They do, and the members of the circle devote their lives, and those of their descendants, to maintaining the seals. But along the way, a member of the circle teaches some of their magic to someone else – an outsider who hasn’t sworn to maintain the seals, or a child who leaves their family instead of embracing their duty. This person goes north and teaches the magic they’ve learned to someone else. At this point, this third generation wizard knows only the basic principles of the magic and almost none of the history behind it; but they have enough to build upon, to make their own discoveries and create their own traditions.

This is what you have in the Reaches. The basic techniques of druidic magic can be traced back to the Gatekeepers, but we’re talking about thousands of years — more than enough time for new traditions to evolve and arise. The Greensingers are just such a case, shaped when druidic initiates encountered envoys of Thelanis, or found their way into the Faerie Court themselves.

And do you see the majority of the Greensingers as being more loyal to their fey patrons or to the people of the Reaches, considering that they act as intermediaries between the two?

I see the Greensingers as being an intensely individualistic sect, far more so than any of the others. They’re tied to different patrons and inspired by different things. Some of them may be deeply devoted to serving as intermediaries or guides; others may solely be concerned with the agendas of their fey patrons.

What could change if the Wardens decide that Ashbounds are right and arcane magic is driving the world to apocalypse? Could the druid together do something? Would they try something extreme like a war to house cannith, attempting to kill everybody with the mark of making?

Do they have the resources to do anything like that? It’s really up to you as a GM. In my opinion, the Wardens of the Wood are a small force; while they may have access to significant primal power in the Towering Woods, like the Undying Court, that power is concentrated in a specific geographic location; they simply don’t have the capability of threatening House Cannith across the Five Nations. Which is part of the basic premise of Eberron: if they DID decide House Cannith was a threat, they’d need to find some champions – IE PCs – to do something about it. Note that even at the height of their power, the Gatekeepers couldn’t face the Daelkyr on their own; it was the alliance of Gatekeepers and Dhakaani that overcame the incursion.

With that said, if you wanted to use this as something the PCs need to prevent as opposed to enact, there’s any number of plots I could image. Perhaps they work with the Children of Winter and come up with a plague that specifically targets the dragonmarked, killing them or simply sterilizing them. This isn’t an instant effect, but it’s something that is spreading rapidly; can the PCs find a cure before it’s too late? What consequences will losing a big chunk of the dragonmarked have on the world?

Perhaps they enact a massive ritual that separates Eberron from Siberys and completely disrupts arcane magic – which would have widespread ramifications, such as the collapse of Sharn and crashing of airships. The initial ritual might only last for a day – but can the PCs find an answer before a follow-up ritual makes it permanent?

And the real question I’d ask is What if they’re right? What if it IS pushing Eberron closer to the apocalypse? If you reverse this ritual, will it trigger a new and more widespread Mourning?

I explored this concept in greater depth in an Eye on Eberron article in Dragon 418. Here’s an excerpt.

The doctrine of the Children of Winter states that Siberys is the source of arcane and divine magic; Eberron the mother of primal and natural things; and Khyber is the font of aberrations and fiends. The first signs of Eberron’s fury would be a wave of natural disasters. Thousands die as floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes shake the world. Once she is fully awake, Eberron asserts her preeminence over her creation, banishing the influence of Khyber and Siberys alike. The Lords of Dust are forced into the depths with other fiends, while the dragons of Argonnessen are wiped out. The magical energies wielded by both wizards and priests are cast back to the Ring of Siberys, and arcane and divine magic fails utterly. The towers of Sharn collapse under their own weight. Airships fall from the sky. Amid this chaos, awakened plants tear down the foundations of cities, newborn primal predators hunt survivors, and plagues ravage the land.

            The loss of magic is the key event of this disaster, but it doesn’t make the world a mundane place. Dragons are hard hit because arcane magic flows through their blood—but there are many natural creatures that have innate supernatural abilities. The ogre still has his strength, and the blink dog can still slip through space. Primal magic is stronger than ever, and the youngsters in the ruined cities will grow up to be barbarians and wardens. But beyond that, only a handful of people can still use arcane and divine magic . . . including the player characters. One of the underlying themes of Eberron is that the PCs are the most important people of the age, and here is where that precept is made manifest. Player character clerics and paladins are the last connection to the divine in a world cut off from the heavens. The PC sorcerer still holds a spark of Siberys in his blood, while the artificer is one of the only people who can harness the residual energy that remains. The characters have powers that no one else can wield. Will they search for a way to restore the old order, or will they use their abilities for personal gain? Will the wizard try to create rituals that anyone can use, or use his powers to carve out a kingdom?

Maybe it’s a too off topic question, but if the plan of the Ashbound was to kill or sterilize every Cannith… what would change in Eberron? How would it be an Eberron without House Cannith?

It’s off topic, but I’ll allow it. Personally, I don’t think the removal of House Cannith alone is a logical goal for the Ashbound. Among other things, House Vadalis and House Jorasco are more obvious offenders when it comes to “twisting the natural order of things” and Vadalis is based in Varna, right on the doorstep of the Ashbound. Beyond that, removing House Cannith WOULDN’T have a dramatic immediate effect on things, because most of what Cannith does can be replicated by independent artificers, alchemists, wizards and blacksmiths; what Cannith does is a) innovate and b) industrialize. Inventions like the warforged – something that can only be created by Cannith – are rare; mostly, they produce everything from potions to mundane tools, and creation forges and schemas allow them to produce these things more efficiently and in larger quantities than other folks. Remove House Cannith and what you’ll get is prices of common items going up, shortages occurring, and quality starting to vary dramatically; right now Cannith defines the “industry standard”.

We’ve always said that Eberron is “widespread magic” as opposed to “high magic”. It’s the industrial aspect of Cannith that allows it to be widespread, producing mundane items like everburning torches and the like. Remove Cannith and those things will still be produced – just by a hundred independents, resulting in that range of quality and availability. It wouldn’t be as dramatic as eliminating arcane magic entirely.

Do you have questions about the Eldeen Reaches? Post them below!

20 thoughts on “Catching Up and the Eldeen Reaches

  1. If it was a Gatekeeper that awakened Oalian (if it was), why did he found a new sect of druid faith?

    Are there any other Gatekeeper customs like blindfolding the dead that hunters and aspirants hold to, or wards they perform to stave off attention of any other specific Daelkyr lords?

    How has having Droaam as a new neighbor and influenced the Reaches?

    • Answers to the first and final questions added in the main post. As for Gatekeeper customs, I might be able to come up with some once I’m over the flu.

      • Hi Keith, good to have you back online and thanks for your “Eberron-Time”! I would greatly appreciate everything about Gatekeeper customs and their work within the local communities. In fact I would greatly appreciate every mundane information about traveling in the Eldeen reaches: customs, the “look and feel” of the little village deep within the Reaches, things that work differently here than traveling in the five nations and so on. Get well soon!

        • I would greatly appreciate everything about Gatekeeper customs and their work within the local communities.

          Gatekeepers, or Wardens of the Wood? The Gatekeepers have very little presence in the Eldeen.

          A more detailed breakdown of life and customs in the Eldeen is a large enough topic that it will need to be the subject of an entire post. One thing I’ll note is that the Eldeen is split between the Towering Woods and the farmlands of the Reaches; customs vary significantly between the two.

  2. Could a surge in the other sects be perhaps the outcome of a ploy by queen Aurala? (political intrigue option) Or a rogue dragon trying to shape the prophecy by weakening the Wardens or furthering chaos in the Reaches? Or perhaps the Daelkyr are behind this, instilling dreams in some druids so that the seals holding them in Khyber are weakened? All of the above :)?Excellent post, and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Good to see you back, Keith! Glad you’re keeping busy. One thing I’ve been curious about is the governing structure of the Eldeen Reaches. For starters, the name of the nation sounds much more like the name of a region than the name of a country, and I expect this is reflected in the government, with it towns having lots of autonomy but deferring to the authority of the Wardens when they decide to exercise it. However, it’s hard to see some of the other sects deferring to the Wardens. Do you see them doing so, or do you see them operating parallel governing structures?

    Also, how do the Eldeen Reaches conduct their foreign relations? Do the Five Nations maintain embassies in Greenheart and consult with Oalian? The way canon text describes Greenheart (no commerce allowed, etc.) and the protections surrounding Oalian make it difficult to imagine. That said, I like the idea that the rulers of the Five Nations might appoint certain troublesome nobles as ambassadors and embassy staff to the Eldeen Reaches as a kind of glorified exile that the nobles are unable to refuse.

    On a completely different, and incredibly nerdy, note, the Eldeen Reaches has consistently been described as a breadbasket of Khorvaire. But what crops do you see them growing? And for that matter, the rest of Khorvaire? I must admit I always wondered why Aundair was noted for its wine when northern Breland’s climate seemed much more Mediterranean, or southern Thrane’s. Also, I like the idea of goblinoids farming potatoes, but it doesn’t match the climate of southern Khorvaire where the Dhakaani Empire thrived, and I see the potato as a Karrnathi staple. Maybe even a dwarven one of the Mror Holds. Granted, Eberron is a fantasy world and there is no reason the staple grains and crops there need to be similar to ours, but I find that inevitably we make them so. After all, Eberron has beer, wine, and bread.

  4. Did the Greensingers arise from other druidic sects like the case with Oalian founding the Wardens? And do you see the majority of the Greensingers as being more loyal to their fey patrons or to the people of the Reaches, considering that they act as intermediaries between the two?

  5. Hi Keith, here another question I just thought of: Does the Eldeen Reaches has there share of goblin ruins like the rest of (central) khorvaire? Or does the Dhakaani Empire didn’t come that far and the region now called the Eldeen Reaches had always been in orcish hands. If so are there old ruins to be found related to gatekeeper historie? (Couldn’t imagine that, given that the gatekeepers are druidic and I always assumed they didn’t build anything lasting centuries; not counting the seals and standing stone of cause). Anyhow, I was just wondering how I could get my players get in touch with the history of the region.

    • This also seems like a question better suited to a follow-up article that’s more about life in the Reaches (which I’d like to write when I have time). But the short answer is none of the above. The Dhakaani didn’t extend into the Towering Woods, but there were only a handful of orc clans in the region; the Towering Woods were mainly home to shifters, gnolls, beasts and fey.

  6. In Droamm the sisters are founding a place in the society for every kind of monster. Do the druids or at least some sects thinking on something like that? An organisation of humans and magical beasts?
    And what the druids think of the project of the sisters? I can’t imagine druids thinking at monsters just as “evil because savage”.
    And a little off topic question: how do you see the ogre magis in Eberron? Where do they come from? Do they have specific cultural traits?

    • In Droamm the sisters are founding a place in the society for every kind of monster. Do the druids or at least some sects thinking on something like that? An organisation of humans and magical beasts?

      Not really. Many sects work with magical beasts on a small scale, but generally the druids seek to live in harmony with the creatures of the Wood, whereas what the Daughters have done has completely shaken up the ‘natural order’ of Droaam. At the same time, I don’t many have a particularly strong opinion about what the Daughters are doing in Droaam… any more than they care about what Boranel is doing in Breland.

      And a little off topic question: how do you see the ogre magis in Eberron? Where do they come from? Do they have specific cultural traits?

      Under the original 3.5 rules, Ogre Mages are essentially a recessive trait that can spontaneously manifest in any ogre population; as such they don’t have a distinct culture and are generally remarkable individuals. Ogres are historically from Sarlona, and Ogre Mages have more of a defined role in Riedra than on Khorvaire; see Secrets of Sarlona for more details. With the rebranding as Oni in 4E on, I’d consider a different approach if I were to revisit them.

  7. What could change if the Wardians decide that Ashbounds are right and arcane magic is driving the world to apocalypse? Could the druid together do something? Would they try something extreme like a war to house cannith, attempting to kill everybody with the mark of making?
    Would you place Shamans and Wu-Jen in Eldeen Reaches or where else?

    • I’ve added my answer to the first question to the main post.

      As for the second, I’m not personally terribly familiar with Wu Jen, and with shamans it depends what edition you’re working with. From what I gather, Wu Jen are arcane casters who manipulate the elements; if the underlying principle is arcane, it’s not a particularly logical fit for the Reaches. I’d probably make it an old Sarlonan tradition, or perhaps a Giant tradition tied to the elemental-binding Sulat League. My primary experience with the Shaman is through 4E, where you could using them in the Eldeen; but I also used shaman with the Valenar (where the spirits they conjured were minor ancestors) and a Cyran shaman who called on the spirits of those killed in the Mourning. I could also definitely see Shamans among the Vulkoori or Qaltiar drow.

  8. Thank you Keith. I was just looking for something like that: what if they ARE right, but their action are terrible too? What would the pcs do, and how the other forces react? It could be something like climate changes debate at extreme point.
    Incidentally, note that you copied my question at the end of the post 🙂

    • Speaking of magic-as-climate-change, that’s something I explored in an article in Dragon a little while ago. I’ve just added a bit of that at the end of this post.

  9. Maybe it’s a too off topic question, but if the plan of ashbounds was to kill or sterilize every cannith… what would change in Eberron? How would it be an Eberron without house cannith?

    • Added to the main article. In short, I don’t think eliminating Cannith would have an instant effect that would be as dramatic as what you’re looking for. It would kill innovation and you’d immediately start to see shortages, but MOST of the things that Cannith produces can be produced by magewrights/artificers/alchemists; the dragonmark focus items Cannith uses are about enabling mass production, allowing for the widespread magic. So you’d suddenly be depending on independent artisans, but there ARE independent artisans, so the world wouldn’t grind to a halt.

  10. I tough the main point was: human warfare is strongly based on cannith production. Without cannith, darguum, droam, Valenar and zilargo become stronger.

    Beside that, I think an interesting topic could be the political system and relationships of the reaches. Do they have anything like laws, taxes, ambassadors? They have a powerful, incredibly old druid tree… is his word taken as a law? Does somebody contest him? Did it sign thonehold and humans accept a tree as a king, President or whatever?

    • I tough the main point was: human warfare is strongly based on cannith production. Without cannith, darguum, droam, Valenar and zilargo become stronger.

      That’s definitely true. Cannith is the industrial power – they are capable of mass producing the weapons of war. My point is simply that if you eliminate Cannith, those things don’t disappear entirely, they are simply reduced in scope. Aundair and Karrnath in particular have strong national war magic programs, and Breland has a strong industrial base. And all the nations already have significant arsenals; without Cannith, they’d simply be slower to replenish them. Taking away Cannith would have a significant long-term impact, but it would take a matter of years for that impact to really play out.

      Beside that, I think an interesting topic could be the political system and relationships of the reaches.

      Sure! This ties to Anna’s questions earlier. These things are too broad in scope for me to add to the current discussion and really want to be the subject of a different post. At the moment I’m at a convention and don’t have the time to write that post, but I’ll get to it in the future.

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