IFAQ: Evil Tairnadal Ancestors?

I’m often asked about the cause of the Mourning or the abilities of the Mark of Death, but there are a few infrequent questions worth discussion. Like this one:

Has it ever been the case that the Tairnadal Keepers of the Past have identified a newborn’s ancestral spirit as some great villain from elven history? If so, what happens to them? Are they banished with their family exiled? Are the elves with heroic ancestral patrons forced to attempt to kill the child?

The foundation of my answer lies in a previous Tairnadal FAQ. There’s two key points.

You don’t receive a patron ancestor at birth. The Keepers of the Past don’t determine your patron ancestor until adolescence. The prior FAQ notes “Tairnadal children spend their youth essentially auditioning for the ancestors.” The idea is that the patron ancestors aren’t simply picking you based on your BLOOD—they are picking you based on your talents, your personality, and your spirit. You HELP the spirit by emulating the ancestor, so they don’t want to pick people who aren’t a good fit. In making a Tairnadal character, an important question to consider is were you chosen by the patron you hoped for, or did you have to adapt? Another aspect of this is that the Tairnadal are a CULTURE. Tairnadal can choose to abandon their traditions and become Aereni, and vice versa; if you just DON’T emulate your ancestor, you’re losing the opportunity to receive their guidance, but nothing else happens. So again, the choice happens at adolescence, after you’ve spent your childhood learning about the ancestors and the customs of your people, and training in the skills you hope will make you suitable to your preferred patron.

This ties to the second key point: The patron ancestors only exist because of the devotion of the Tairnadal. The living Tairnadal keep the ancestors from fading through devotion and by emulating them. The patrons REWARD their devotees with guidance, but if living elves simply chose not to revere an ancestor, that ancestor would fade and be lost. This is one main reason that elves DON’T get to choose their ancestors, and why as a Tairnadal it’s your DUTY to honor the ancestor who chooses you—because if everyone played favorites and picked Ancestor A over Ancestor B, we’d LOSE Ancestor B. But the key point here is you don’t get to BE a patron ancestors unless the Tairnadal want to keep you around. The previous article says “Despite being beloved and preserved in memory, did they have any notable flaws? Because it’s the duty of the revenant to embody their flaws as well as their virtues! But an elf wouldn’t be preserved as a patron ancestor unless their virtues significantly outweighed their flaws.”

So you can have a patron ancestor who’s noted for their cruelty or arrogance, and it’s the duty of their chosen to be cruel or arrogant. But they have to have been celebrated heroes IN SPITE of those flaws. If someone was an utterly despicable villain, the Tairandal would simply choose NOT to follow their example, the spirit would fade (as spirits do) and that would be that. So no: following the standard traditions of the Tairnadal, a newborn could never be chosen by a legendary villain, and their family wouldn’t be exiled.

WITH THAT SAID… That’s “following the standard traditions of the Tairnadal.” If you want to tell this story, you just have to be clear that it’s OUTSIDE of those traditions. The Tairnadal sustain their ancestors through freely offered devotion. But this is a world where undead are real. So you could easily create a new form of undead: Tairnadal spirits of infamous villains who AREN’T revered or preserved, and who are instead sustained through involuntary spiritual vampirism—selecting a host and forcing that host to reenact their deeds (as opposed to the standard system where again, the ancestor can reward a good host but can’t FORCE them to do anything). It could be that there’s a much stronger biological factor in their choice of host than usual (as noted in the FAQ article, at this point most living Tairnadal are connected to dozens of ancestors and it’s not a major factor), and that when such a host appears it’s a major concern.

SO: Could an infamous villain choose a newborn elf at birth? Not by the standard traditions. But if you WANT an infamous villain to choose a newborn elf at birth, just make a new threat that supports the story.

Are the elves with heroic ancestral patrons forced to attempt to kill the child?

I wanted to revisit this for just a moment to again reflect on things. It’s important to understand that the Tairnadal aren’t CONTROLLED by their ancestors. They believe that they are REWARDED with spiritual guidance when they do a good job of emulating the ancestor—that the champion can act through them and share its skills. They believe that by emulating the ancestor they preserve it, which adds the point that it’s their civic DUTY to do so… hence the idea that if you’ve been chosen by a cruel ancestor it’s your duty to be cruel, and if you’ve been chosen by an ancestor celebrated for their virtue, it’s your duty to be virtuous. But ultimately that’s about DUTY: you are never actually forced to take an action you don’t want to do. It’s very much like a paladin’s oath: you CAN break it, you’d just prefer not to.

So first of all, MOST Tairnadal ancestors are champions who fought giants, dragons, or goblins. They are heroes to their people, but they are soldiers as opposed to general champions of virtue. With that said, you could easily have a patron ancestor who was known as a demon hunter or ghostbuster—someone who protected the people by hunting down supernatural threats, much like followers of the Silver Flame. And yes, if you were chosen by that ancestor, it would be your duty to hunt down supernatural threats. If you define this evil thing as a form of negative undead, there’s a secondary aspect to consider: rather than being hunted by TAIRNADAL, it might be hunted by the Deathguard of Aerenal, who are explicitly sacred commandos who hunt down and destroy undead.

I’ll be answering more questions in the days ahead: thanks to my Patreon supporters for their support and interesting questions!

What Defines the Mror?

Image by Júlio Azevedo for Exploring Eberron

In March’s poll, my Patreon supporters selected Mror dwarves as the subject for this article. Exploring Eberron covers the Mror in more depth, delving into the history of the Holds, the cultures of the ruling clans, and further information about the ongoing conflict in Khyber—along with the symbiont that have been claimed as spoils of war. So there’s lots more (Mror!) to look forward to… but today, let’s look at what it means to be Mror.

Dwarves aren’t human. In creating a Mror character it can help to reflect on the ways in which dwarves differ from humanity. Clan plays a significant role in Mror culture, but there’s a few common things that can be born in mind for any Mror character.

DARKVISION

While the dwarves of the Realm Below may have spent their entire lives below the surface, the Mror dwarves were born on the surface of the Ironroot Mountains. Mror dwarves appreciate sunlight and color, and their buildings typically have windows. However, dwarves don’t need light. While in total darkness a dwarf suffers disadvantage on sight-based Perception checks. This is inconvenient, but not unbearable. Areas where people need to do skilled work will have at least dim light. But many mine tunnels and stretches of the Realm Below have no light sources.

A more general impact is that the circadian rhythms of dwarves are more flexible than those of humans. While it’s important to maintain a regular schedule, day and night have little meaning for the Mror. Mror communities are active at all hours, and major Mror businesses are continuously open. “Nightlife” isn’t a concept in Mror society, and entertainment can likewise be found at all hours; traveling Mror are often frustrated by the limited opportunities in human communities.

THE WAR BELOW

Characters from the Five Nations are shaped by the Last War. Mror are shaped by Dol Udar, the War Below. Currently this conflict is simmering, with a stalemate along the deep siege lines, but there has been no victory and the threat remains. When the war was at its height, all Mror lived in daily fear of aberrant attacks and the full resources of the holds were directed to the war effort. The Mror Holds are smaller than the Five Nations, and the impact of the conflict was intense. All civilians engaged in combat drills in preparation for dolgrim assault, and everyone was expected to contribute to the war effort—repairing or producing arms and armor, maintaining fortifications, or fighting.

For the Mror, this is the source of the Weapon Training and Tool Proficiency racial features. In creating a Mror character or NPC, consider how the war affected you and how this is reflected by your class and proficiencies. A few questions to consider…

  • Did you fight on the front lines, battling aberrations in the depths? If so, what’s the most terrifying thing you saw in the conflict? Are you scarred by your experiences, or does nothing scare you anymore?
  • If you didn’t fight in the Realm Below, did you serve on any civilian support brigades? Did you spend your childhood sharpening axes and repairing armor (proficiency in smith’s tools) or working on fortifications (mason’s tools)? Were you kept out of the conflict by family connections, or did you refuse to serve?
  • Who or what did you lose to the conflict? Did you have a stake in a colony or mine that had to be abandoned? Do you have a sibling or lover lost in the depths—and if so, do you know that they’re dead, or could they be prisoners of Dyrrn?
  • Do you dream of delving deeper into the depths, or would you rather see the Realm Below sealed away forever?

If you use your racial Tool Proficiency for brewer’s tools, you may have been involved in creating supplies for soldiers. However, this is also a common choice for Mror who venture beyond the holds. As mentioned later, the alcohol of the Five Nations is extremely weak by Mror standards, and some consider the ability to brew personal supplies to be a basic survival tool when traveling in foreign lands.

FAMILY FIRST

The Mror Holds are a feudal society. There are twelve active holds. Each is governed by a ruling clan, which gives its name to the hold; Droranathhold is ruled by Clan Droranath. Each hold is then broken up into smaller territories known as spires, each ruled by a clan; there are ancient ties of kinship and marriage between clans and the ruling clan. Within a spire, families maintain tenant relationships with the local clan. Land is held by a clan or family, and most businesses are family businesses. Families are long established, and the creation of an entirely new family is a rare event.

The Mror engage with their history through stories, and clans and families are the characters in those stories. Typically, a Mror tale refers to heroes and villains solely by their family names. So in Mroranon and the Troll King, it doesn’t matter exactly when the story took place or WHICH specific Mroranon it was; it’s a story about Mroranon, and any Mroranon dwarf should strive to live up to that example. Where the Tairnadal elves seek to emulate specific ancestors, Mror dwarves view their family as a greater whole. It’s only natural that you’d help a family member in need, and betraying a family member is like stabbing yourself in the hand. This drives feuds and alliances; if you’re wronged by a Hronnath dwarf, the blame lies with Clan Hronnath, not simply the individual. This reflects the elves in another way. The Aereni elves preserve their ancestors as deathless undead. The Mror don’t feel that need to preserve individuals; you preserve your FAMILY by living up to its character and by adding to its story. The Mror also aren’t as particular about precisely following the traditions of ancestors, as shown by the clans that are currently using symbionts; what you do is less important than the way in which you do it, the values you stand for and the lines you will not cross.

This doesn’t mean that Mror don’t take personal responsibility for their actions or feel pride in their personal deeds. For one thing, the deeds of living dwarves are generally acknowledged by name, as are most events that have occurred within the last century. But looking to your place in history, your name may not be remembered, but you hope that your deeds will be added to the trove of stories told of your family… and that you won’t forever shame your family with the stories of your misdeeds.

In creating a Mror character or NPC, consider your family. Are you part of a clan or ruling clan? If so, are you close enough to power to take the noble background, or are you a lesser heir? Are you from a tenant family, and if so what is your family’s business? Once you’ve considered this, the crucial question is what is the character of your family? While this isn’t as concrete as the Tairnadal, when people tell stories about your family, what are the virtues they highlight? Are there any particular things your family is known for, any celebrated deeds you might emulate, anything a member of your family should never do? Some families do have specific taboos; a Tronnan must never break their word, while a Holladon never turns away a guest. Does your family have any such traditions?

Another thing to consider is how your family was affected by the Dol Udar. Did they invest deeply in the depths, only to suffer grevious loses when the horrors rose? Did they fight on the front lines, or largely remain aboveground? Do they have a family treasure recovered from the Realm Below—a legendary item or artifact you might some day have the honor to wield? Are they willing to embrace symbionts, or are they disgusted by the tools of the daelkyr?

Finally, what is your standing with your family? If it’s good, why have you left the Mror Holds? (Rising From The Last War includes a table with suggestions for this!) If it’s bad, what happened? Is this a situation you hope to fix, or have you turned your back on your family? As a player, you should talk to your DM about the role your family might play in a campaign. Do you want to have cousins showing up in need of assistance or to be drawn into new feuds, or would you rather that your family remain in your backstory? 

LONG LIFE, TREASURED STORIES, AND STORIED TREASURES

The Mror attitude toward family is one example of how they deal with their long lives. A dwarf can live to be up to 350 years old. Intellectually they mature at about the same rate as humans, but they generally aren’t considered to be full adults until around 50 years of age. This ties to the fact that dwarves have a low rate of fertility, and their reproductive peak is between 50 and 120. While under fifty, a Mror dwarf is usually learning the family trade and working for their elders; at fifty and above, a dwarf will start thinking about starting their own branch of the family tree and the family trade.

In stark contrast to the elves of Aerenal, the Mror dwarves deal with their long lives by largely ignoring the passage of time: by not trying to record every detail or remember every person, simply holding on to the best moments and ideas. The story matters more than the concrete facts. Individuals come and go, but the family remains and the story continues. Tied to this is the fact that the Mror love stories. Like the dar, the Mror prefer stories to be based on fact as opposed to being absolute fiction… but a story should always be entertaining, and as long as the spirit is true it’s fine to exaggerate a few details. The talespinner bard thus does serve as a keeper of history, but their role as entertainers is as important—if not more so—than their role as sages. In playing a Mror character, you might come up with a few old stories you love. But you may also take joy in dramatically retelling the story of your adventures—the deeds of both you and your fellow adventurers—celebrating and highlighting their finest moments.

Another aspect that has been highlight about the Mror is their love of objects—their love of treasure. In part this ties to a deep appreciation of quality of work. The dwarves appreciate beautiful things, but durability and functionality are far more important—as shown by the willingness of many dwarves to embrace grotesque symbionts. Beyond this, the Mror are deeply interested in objects with stories of their own. Every family has family treasures. Sometimes these are the most powerful magic items the dwarves have acquired, and this is notably the case with artifacts and legendary items that have been recovered from the Realm Below over the last century; part of the pride of the ruling clans is derived from the treasures they can boast of. But a family treasure can also be a mundane item that has been a part of many epic stories. As noted earlier, no one cares which specific Mroranon heir was the hero of Mroranon and the Troll King. But the fact is that the house still has the bracer that hero made from the troll king’s nose-ring, and carrying this relic is a tremendous source of pride. As a Mror adventurer, when you find treasures, you want to know the stories they are already carrying—who forged this Flametongue? What battles has it seen? But beyond that, consider the items you possess that you feel a strong attachment to—and consider whether their stories are evolving along with yours.

GRAND GREETINGS AND GIFTS

Mror dwarves can be seen as boastful by outsiders, quick to share tales of their exploits. The truth of the matter is that they love stories. It’s not that they seek to dominate every conversation with their tales, it’s that they expect others to share their stories as well; and if they don’t, Mror will be quick to boast about the deeds of their companions. Anyone who spends much time around Mror will quickly grow used to the phrase tol kollanor the Common rendition, “that reminds me of a story.” Mror hate quick meetings; any gathering should have time for tales.

While there are certain families known for their thrift, generosity is an important virtue towards the Mror. As much as they value their storied treasures, there is joy to be had in giving the perfect gift—in showing that you can afford to give away a treasure, and that you recognize someone who will appreciate it and make good use of it. A common tradition at a grand feast is for each of the greatest heroes present—typically, the scions of ruling clans—to offer a gift to the host along with a tale of how they came by the gift; the one who gives the finest gift is served first at the feast.

While you may not attend many feasts, consider this tradition when you have time and opportunity. Is there a chance to give a comrade a perfect gift? Is there a treasure you possess that might be better suited to one of your companions?

FASHION

Clothes tell a story, and Mror dwarves love to tell tales. As with most Mror possessions, the quality of clothing comes first. Because of this, dwarves from lesser families may only have a single set of clothing, but these are durable and well made. With this in mind, Mror place great stock in accessories. A Mror outfit typically has elements that can be reversed, shifted, or removed. Brooches have important cultural significance, and include family crests, the seal of the ruling clan, the symbol of a Sovereign whose favor is sought, or even moods; there are brooches that mean leave me alone and looking for company. Other forms of jewelry—rings, chains, bracelets—are commonly worn by dwarves of all genders. This is an opportunity to show wealth, but decorative ornaments of iron are often worn by common folk. The dultar (“blood blade”) is a dagger worn both as a utilitarian tool and as a statement of allegiance; each of the ruling clans has a distinct style of dultar. Any Mror dwarf can immediately identify another dwarf’s clan from their dultar; for an outsider, this requires an Intelligence (History) check.

Other affectations are tied to clan and family. Some families prefer neatly trimmed beards. Many clans weave beads into facial hair or braids, with the design of the bead invoking the favor of a Sovereign or honoring a clan. Hair dye is often used as a form of personal expression.

Clans that have embraced the used of symbionts—notably Soldorak and Narathun—have developed many exotic fashions over the last century. For such dwarves, wearing symbiont clothing or accessories is a sign of courage and power—much as a hunter might wear the hides of animals they’ve defeated. Living clothing typically has a texture similar to leather, though chitin plating or hornlike protrusions are possible. Patterns or colors may shift to reflect the mood of the wearer; a living cloak may ripple or billow of its own accord. Living clothing is self cleaning and mending, and feeds on the excretions (primarily sweat) of the host. Narathun currently has the finest artisan-breeders working with living clothing, and styles are constantly evolving.

CUISINE

When approaching Mror cuisine, there’s an important thing to keep in mind: Mror dwarves have exceptional constitutions and are resistant to poison. The dwarves live in high mountains and subterranean settlements; while some of their meats and vegetables are familiar to the people of the Five Nations, they also use a wide variety of mushrooms and moss. Red pudding is a form of peaceful ooze raised as livestock. While these are entirely harmless to any creature resistant to poison damage (many Stout halflings of the Talenta Plains enjoy Mror cuisine), Mror stew can sicken creatures with more delicate stomachs.

Alcohol is also a form of poison, and Mror spirits have to be exceptionally strong to satisfy sturdy dwarves. Mror brewers often use mushrooms to produce alcohol, and also produce a number of mushroom-based beverages with light hallucinogenic effects. Most Mror hosts will be careful to keep travelers from buying drinks that could kill them!

RELIGION

Mror talespinners maintain that the dwarves are blessed by the Sovereigns, especially Kol Korran and Onatar. It is a curious coincidence that kol is the Dwarvish word for “commerce,” while dol means “war.” The talespinners say the Traveler stole the names of the Sovereigns from the dwarves during the Exile. The priests of Krona Peak say that Kol Korran came to the hero Mroranon and promised the dwarves wealth and prosperity for as long as they remembered his name and followed his path, while the talespinners of Doldarunhold swear that the hero Doldarun was the child of Dol Dorn and Dol Arrah. The records of the Library of Korranberg show that there were a number of Zil missionaries active in the Ironroots in the centuries before Bal Dulor, and some sages assert that these tales may have been the work of clever missionaries. Whatever the truth, there were already shrines to the Sovereigns when young Karrn led his forces to conquer the holds.

While the Mror broadly acknowledge all of the Sovereigns, Kol Korran and Onatar are the most beloved; Boldrei and Olladra are also often invoked. Clan Doldoran, Mroranon, and Soranath are especially devout, while Droranath, Soldorak, and Toldorath are the most pragmatic. The Blood of Vol and the Dark Six have small followings in Narathun, but other faiths have had little success in the holds.

WHAT ABOUT SUBRACES?

The general population of the Mror Holds includes both hill and mountain dwarves. Rather than being distinct ethnicities, these are primarily a secondary form of background, reflecting the nature of your upbringing. Mountain dwarves typically served in the hold militias and fought in the War Below, hence their Dwarven Armor Training. Hill dwarves were typically civilians, though this isn’t absolute; a fighter with the soldier background and a backstory of service in the war could still be a hill dwarf, as they receive armor proficiency from their class.

The Mark of Warding reflects a blood tie to House Kundarak. While this is typically limited to dwarves of Kundarakhold, Over the course of generations the Kundarak bloodline has spread throughout the holds. Such watered down bloodlines are less likely to produce a dragonmark, but you could play a Mror dwarf from another clan who develops the Mark of Warding. As with other foundlings, the house would typically be glad to accept you as Kundarak; will you embrace that, or do you prefer to maintain your allegiance to the family you were born to?

Exploring Eberron includes a new subrace with a particular (rare) role in the Mror Holds—so that’s something to look forward to!

That’s all for today. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters. I’ll be posting the poll for the April article on Patreon soon, and we’ll have more short Q&A articles next week!

iFAQ: University Adventures

I’m still working on Exploring Eberron, but with many of us trapped at home I want to write a few shorter articles dealing with INfrequently asked questions from my Patreon supporters. This week we’ve been tackling the concept of magical education in Eberron. Let’s wrap up that topic with this question.

If you were to run an anime-inspired school-based game, where would you set it?

We’re used to the idea of D&D being about epic adventures and dungeon crawls, but there’s lots of fantasy stories that focus on schooling and coming of age. Set aside anime for a moment; The Name of the Wind and the Harry Potter series are both stories that focus on adventures at a school or university. So whether you’ll looking for anime flavor or the more traditional fantasy of The Name of the Wind, I think this is a fun idea to explore.

With that in mind, I DID explore it… in the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron. In the WGtE I included three “Starting Points.” This was an early variation of the Group Patrons of Rising, with the point of tying a campaign to a location and a theme rather than a patron. These included Clifftop, a hub for globetrotting adventurers; Callestan, a gritty street-level campaign; and Morgrave University.

So to answer the question: I would personally choose Morgrave University or Arcanix. Which I’d choose would be based on the type of story I want to tell. Arcanix is closer to Hogwarts. It is ISOLATED—heck, the towers are floating, and if you haven’t learned to fly yet it takes time to get down! There’s a supporting village nearby, but there’s not a lot of activity there. By contrast, Morgrave is right in the middle of Sharn, so there’s all sorts of opportunity for trouble just off campus (much as University students in The Name of the Wind can go into Imre). Likewise, Morgrave University is infamous for indulging in dungeon delves and dangerous expeditions as “field trips.” Furthermore, Arcanix is specifically a college of magic, which limits your character concepts; because Morgrave is a more general purpose institution, it’s easier to justify any class.

These are supposed to be short articles, so I’m not going to retread all the ground covered in the Wayfinder’s Guide. But I’ll touch on a few things I’d personally focus on in running a school-based campaign.

Story rewards. I’d drop the standard experience point system and base character advancement either on time or on clearly established milestones. It’s also possible that you could tie specific class abilities to in-game situations. If you want to learn a specific spell, you’re going to have to sneak a particular spellbook out of the Library. You may be a 3rd level fighter, but to get the abilities of your Martial Archetype you’re going to have to find a mentor. This is a way to blend story and mechanics together. In a game at school you’re not likely to be amassing TREASURE—so one option is for the rewards you gain to BE access to locations or the favor of teachers—but those can be linked to concrete rewards, whether it’s access to your full class abilities or something beyond that, such as Supernatural Gifts or Marks of Prestige from the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

How will you handle power? D&D is based on an underlying system of character advancement that provides players with new abilities to explore and the ability to take on greater challenges over time. At the same time, it’s can be bizarre to have your characters become 6th or 7th level characters AT SCHOOL when that’s a level of skill that dwarfs veteran soldiers… especially if the DM wants to present rival students or professors as having even greater power. There’s a few ways to address this.

  • Limit advancement. You can always choose to say that characters DON’T advance in this campaign – or do so very, very slowly. You improve by gaining allies, influence, and information, not by doubling your hit points or gaining new spells. This is perfectly reasonable if everyone agrees, but at that point—if you’re eliminating a significant piece of the rules system—I’d question whether you should be using an entirely different rules system that isn’t based around character advancement to begin with.
  • It’s all relative. Sure, characters gain a level every two sessions. And the evil professor is a 9th level spellcaster. And there’s a lich in the basement. But it’s reasonable to say that this is how things appear because you’re in a microcosm and you’re comparing skills to people in that bubble with you. I would have no problem playing through a school campaign in which characters got up to 10th level and at the end of it saying “Okay, you all graduate. How about when we start the new campaign with you adventuring in the wider world, you all start off at 3rd level?” The point being that 10th level on the SCHOOL SCALE might only be 3rd level outside. Obviously this takes some suspension of disbelief—I used to be able to teleport! I raised someone from the dead! But hey, that was school, kids. Crazy things happen.
  • Ignore it. Sure, it doesn’t make sense for you to be dueling another student and that both of you are 9th level wizards. But so what? If people are having fun, does it matter?

How do you explain character classes? We’ve mentioned before that the abilities of player characters are inherently remarkable… that just at first level you’re pretty amazing. How’s that fit with a school game, where you’re just supposed to be students? Here again I’d follow the it’s all relative approach. Yes, mechanically you’re a 1st level wizard. But in this setting, that reflects the idea that you have an APTITUDE for wizardry and you need to work to develop it. A few quick thoughts…

  • Wizard? Artificer? You’re science nerds. You’re all about figuring out how arcane science works.
  • Fighter? Barbarian? You’re the jocks. Perhaps you actually want to be soldiers when you graduate, or perhaps you’re here on a Hrazhak scholarship. Barbarian, you really need to deal with your anger issues.
  • Cleric? You’re deeply religious and know that your faith in Aureon/The Divinity Within is going to help you pass that math test. Faith and divine magic ARE real things in Eberron; there’s surely a chaplain at school who will want to help you develop your faith and your abilities. You might get divine visions pushing you to do things! Paladin, you’re in the same boat, but you’re ALSO a jock on a Hrazhak scholarship.
  • Rogue? You might be a bit of a rebel—the student from Lower Dura or the bad side of the tracks, who has friends in the Boromar Clan and can get Dreamlily for the party. Are you here reluctantly? Are you hoping to turn a profit on this whole thing? Are you more interested in gambling than studying? Bard, you could follow the same path, but you’re a bit of a know-it-all and hey, you should start a band.
  • Sorcerer? Like the Cleric, sorcery is a thing that happens in the world. You may not have any knowledge of Arcana and may not want to learn, but there’s likely a teacher or professor who specializes in helping sorcerers develop their abilities. One question is whether you’re here by choice, or whether you’re here because you HAVE to be to learn to control your powers.
  • Warlock? You could take this a few ways. You COULD say that you’re working with a particular division of the Conjuration department that cultivates warlock relationships. But if it were ME, I’d play you as Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club. You’re the weird kid, the outsider who’s always writing poetry in your journal in the corner, who prefers talking to your imaginary friends to going to parties… except your imaginary friends are REAL and they’re teaching you how to do things. Like the cleric, your patron could give you visions or tasks that push you to work with the other characters despite your preference for isolation.
  • Druid? Ranger? You’re both odd choices for a big city school, but hey, you just moved to town from the Eldeen Reaches and your family insisted you get an education. Shifter Ranger? You’re DEFINITELY on the Hrazhak team, and you’re annoyed because these city kids are playing it ALL WRONG.

Backgrounds obviously overlap with these ideas. Noble background? You’re from a wealthy family. Urchin? You’re the orphan here because one of the professors sponsored you. Sage? You’re the annoying know-it-all. Entertainer? You DO have a band. Soldier? You’re from a military family, and if you screw up here you’re heading back to Rekkenmark. Criminal? OK, YOU’RE the one who can get some dreamlily for the party.

This has turned into a longer article than I’d intended, so I’m going to stop here. But hopefully this gives you ideas! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters!

iFAQ: Magical Education

While we’re all in quarantine, I’m going to do what I can to post more short articles. I’m building up a log of interesting questions from the inner circle of my Patreon supporters that I’ll be answering as time permits. Today’s question is a spinoff from yesterday’s discussion of Aereni Learning.

University is the primary way magewrights and wizards are educated. Is a Magewright getting further education to become a Wizard like going from a bachelor’s degree to a doctorate (Wizard 3) or a second, separate, degree (Magewright 2/Wizard 1)?

None of the above!

It’s easy to see mechanics and lose sight of story. A wizard can change out their spells every time they rest, which makes spells feel interchangeable. But that’s not how magewrights work at all. The concept of the magewright has always been at odds with the rules; the idea never really worked with the Vancian magic of third edition. In fifth edition, the mechanics of the magewright finally are in line with the core idea. “Magewright” is a general term, like “artisan.” It means “Someone who uses magic as a part of their occupation.” The standard magewright has one or two tool or skill proficiencies and can cast two or three spells. They cast those spells as rituals—even if they’re spells that don’t normally have the ritual tag—and have an added component cost, even if the spell doesn’t normally have a cost associated with casting.

So: a locksmith can cast mending as a cantrip and arcane lock and knock as rituals, and has proficiency with tinker’s tools and thieves’ tools. A healer can cast resistance and spare the dying as cantrips, and detect poison and disease and lesser restoration as rituals, and is proficient with Medicine and herbalism kits. These are two entirely different sets of skills—and learning to magically repair objects (mending) is as different from learning to repair people (lesser restoration) as mechanics versus medicine in our world; the fact that it’s using arcane science instead of mundane science doesn’t alter that fact. So just as an automotive mechanic isn’t going to go to the same school as a medical doctor, a magewright locksmith won’t study at the same institution as a magewright healer.

MOST magewright education isn’t done at universities. It’s handled by trade schools maintained by the associated guild. So if you want to be a healer, you’ll study with the Healer’s Guild of House Jorasco; if you want to be a locksmith, you’ll get your training from the Warding Guild of House Kundarak. When you’re done, you’ll be licensed by the guild, which will also help place you with a business. The Arcane Congress of Aundair has been developing its own trade programs, but this is something discouraged by the house guilds.

So: what does this mean for arcane universities, such as Arcanix? It’s the difference between studying physics and learning to repair a dishwasher. Guild schools train magewrights to perform clear and concrete tasks. At Arcanix, people study the THEORIES of arcane science. They learn to perform magic in very different ways than magewrights, and to cast spells that magewrights could never master. Even when casting the exact same spell, a wizard and a magewright do so in COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WAYS. When a wizard casts arcane lock, it takes one action and costs 25 gp, and burns one of the wizard’s spell slots. When a magewright locksmith casts arcane lock, it costs 65 gp and takes an hour; but if they’ve got the gold and the time, they can cast it over and over and over again. The key point here is that the result is the same, but what they are DOING is very different… and the training for each is entirely different. Magewrights study for years to master their rituals; this is because those rituals are very different from the techniques of wizardry, which is WHY your wizard can’t cast arcane lock as a ritual.

Now: NPCs don’t follow the same rules as player characters. You CAN have an NPC who has the same powers as a wizard—as shown by some NPC stat blocks—but this is also an opportunity to add story and flavor to the world. It’s possible that many graduates of Arcanix are never able to cast spells except as rituals. Some will be wandslingers or Magic Initiates, mastering just a few cantrips or a single spell. Others may only be able to master spellcasting in specific spheres: an NPC evoker can ONLY cast evocation spells, and just doesn’t understand conjuration. The professors at Arcanix aren’t supposed to all be fully operational 9th level wizards; they are arcane scholars, but don’t have the same powers as player characters. Even at low levels, player characters are remarkable; the versatility of a PC wizard reflects remarkable talent and an understanding of arcane principles that most students never master.

So back to the original question: Magewrights and wizards are on completely different paths and study at different institutions. A magewright will usually study at a guild trade school that teaches both the specialized rituals and the skill and tool proficiencies they need for their work. Universities such as Arcanix teach broader arcane science; they can produce wizards and artificers, but many graduates only possess a fraction of the abilities of those classes. They understand the THEORY—and end up trained in Arcana, and perhaps possessing the abilities of a Magic Initiate or Ritual Caster, or other limited spellcasting abilities as decided by the DM—but they aren’t all full wizards. What happens if a magewright studies at Arcanix? Assuming they’re an NPC, it’s up the the DM to decide how these two entirely different sets of education combine. It could be as simple as “They’re a magewright, but now they have proficiency with Arcana.”

This in turn ties to what I said in the previous article: Aereni students take far longer with their arcane studies than their counterparts in the Five Nations… and they also produce more actual wizards. Because despite its limitations, Aerenal is fundamentally more advanced in its understanding of arcane science than the Five Nations; they are just resistant to abandoning their established traditions and pursuing dramatic innovation, while the Five Nations is quickly evolving.

Where do wand adepts fall into the wizard-magewright dichotomy?

Wand adepts fall in between, in the same category as “Magic Initiates.” They’ve learned how to cast a few cantrips and a spell or two, and critically, they cast them in the once-per-short-rest fashion of a wizard as opposed to the as-a-ritual of the Magewright. They just lack the brilliant insight into arcane principles that makes the wizard so flexible; they’ve learned how to do a few very specific things. This where MOST Arcanix students fall—they can do a LITTLE magic, but they aren’t as versatile or as gifted as a full wizard.

With that said, most wand adepts learned their skills in specific military training programs, not at Arcanix. We SAY that a wandslinger can have any two offensive cantrips and a spell, but in practice, everyone in an Aundairian Flametongue unit would be trained in control flamesfire bolt, and burning hands. If you have a different set of spells, you’re from a different unit.

Do magewrights occurs in less civilized areas or are those almost always adepts and the like?

Magewrights require specialized training. They shouldn’t just appear randomly in the wild, any more than a random villager could suddenly become an electrician. With that said, there’s a few options I could imagine.

  • They apprenticed to a previous magewright. Somewhere down the line, there was someone with formal training, and they passed it on. Personally, I think it would take longer to do this that to learn through the standard training, or this person might have gaps in their knowledge; but it should be possible to “learn on the job.”
  • You could posit a sort of sorcerous magewright. Sorcery exists and can manifest spontaneously. Just as the professors of Arcanix aren’t full wizards, you could posit a sorcerer who has a specific arcane talent but whose powers don’t go any further. They wouldn’t LOOK like a normal magewright—it wouldn’t be the SAME sort of ritual a magewright performed—but they could potentially perform the same functions.
  • They could be adepts or gleaners, driven more by faith than arcane training. Again, adepts don’t perform the SAME rituals as magewrights and to a large degree it’s about honing a gift as opposed to choosing a profession. You can discover you have a gift for healing or divination and hone that gift to become an oracle, but you can’t just declare “I’m going to become a faith-based plumber!”

Is it possible for PC wizards, artificers and others to learn rituals for magewrights? How about the Ritual Caster feat?

As it stands, no. The Ritual Caster feat only lets you cast spells that have the ritual tag; magewrights cast spells AS rituals in spite of the fact that they don’t have the ritual tag. Again, the idea is that magewrights spend years in specialized training learning to cast their specific rituals; they aren’t supposed to be something you can casually pick up.

On the one hand, this seems odd; why can’t you play a character who was a magewright before they became an adventurer? The answer is because it would break the balance of the game. Ritual casting is a fundamentally different system than the Vancian model of spell slots. If a player character cleric could cast lesser restoration as a ritual, it would fundamentally alter the balance of many threats; as is, the DM has control over whether a Jorasco healer is available. Magewrights break the rules, but that’s OK because NPCs and player characters don’t follow the same rules; player characters get wide versatility and the ability to rapidly improve, while NPCs get the benefits of deep specialization.

That’s all for now! If you want a deeper dive into magewrights, take a look at this article. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters!

iFAQ: Aereni Learning

Until I’m done with Exploring Eberron, I don’t have time for deep dives. My next major article will take a deeper look at the Mror Dwarves. But meanwhile, with all of us trapped inside, I want to do a few daily posts dealing with some interesting questions from my Patreon supporters. Here’s the first!

The elves of Aerenal are supposed to spend decades perfecting the techniques of their ancestors. When an Aereni character starts out 100 years old, it’s not because they spent decades in diapers or because they’re dumber than human wizards, it’s because they’ve spent decades going deep in their studies. But how does this hold up for Aereni adventurers? They advance at the same pace as other player characters. How does an elf go from taking decades to perfect a cantrip to suddenly casting far more complex spells in a much shorter period of time?

First of all, let’s shoot the elephant in the room: character advancement doesn’t make sense. How is it that your HUMAN wizard can spend a decade studying at Arcanix, but exponentially increase their skills after a month of adventuring? How does the halfling rogue get expertise with Persuasion by stabbing a bunch of goblins? It’s a mistake to look at any of this too deeply, because it’s not logical. This also ties to the idea that the way in which player characters advance is part of what makes them remarkable and NOT typical for all inhabitants of the world. There are veterans of the Last War who still use the “Guard” statblock, because for most people that represents an OK level of skill. Player characters are supposed to be heroes, and their ability to quickly skyrocket to a greater level of power is a narrative device, not something that holds up to any sort of close analysis.

WITH THAT SAID: That doesn’t mean we can’t make it make as much sense as possible, and this is a good question. How come the Aereni wizard spent decades studying magic back home but can advance just as quickly as the human wizard? The key point is that the Aereni apprentice didn’t spend decades studying a specific spell; it didn’t take them that long to learn to cast one particular cantrip. Instead, they were mastering techniques of spellcasting. They were studying history, theory, and concretely, they were mastering somatic and verbal components. Arcane magic is a form of science, and somatic and verbal components are the underlying mechanics that make it possible. An Aereni apprentice learns precise accent and inflection of verbal components, and precise performance of somatic components, exactly mimicking the techniques of the masters of their line. They spend endless hours drilling until these techniques come naturally. When an Aereni wizard casts a spell, it looks and sounds exactly the same as the master who created the spell ten thousand years ago. Because they’ve perfected these basic principles, when they learn—or even create—new spells, the basic techniques will carry them forward. They CAN advance quickly precisely because they spent all that time learning to crawl… ensuring that they are building on a perfect foundation.

This same principle applies across all classes. The Aereni fighter is learning the basic techniques of all weapons, perfecting the most basic guards, learning to hold and move with the weapon just as their ancestors did. They are learning the most fundamental martial principles—and then they can quickly build on top of those without losing those core techniques.

Aereni PREFER to take their time with things. An Aereni fighter might spend four hours each night practicing a specific move while the other characters are taking a long rest, and continue to practice that move in their mind while trancing. But the decades they spent learning before created a foundation that lets them advance quickly when needed. They were honing the basic building blocks that they assemble as they advance with the other characters.

Now, ultimately, does all that work actually make the Aereni player character a better wizard? No. Mechanically, there’s no difference between the Arcanix-trained wizard and the Aereni wizard. But THEMATICALLY the idea is that the Aereni wizardry is beautiful and perfect, like watching a dance; by contrast the Arcanix wizard is taking a lot of shortcuts and throwing in a lot of personal touches. It works great for THAT WIZARD and may be more innovative, but the Aereni find it painful to watch. The second aspect of this is the idea that player character classes reflect a level of talent most people can’t attain, and that the Aereni have MORE people with that level of skill. It takes them longer to get there, but Aerenal has more actual wizards than Khorvaire, whereas in the Five Nations most people just spend the few years required to become magewrights.

Taking as given that player character advancement is not logical, mostly a game mechanic construct, can this focus on learning the exact techniques and history of the past account for the slow pace of technological development in Aereni cultures?

Exactly so. This is something that’s discussed in this article and in this episode of Manifest Zone. A critical quote:

This is why, despite Aereni society having been around for over twenty thousand years, humans are beginning to do things with magic that the elves have never done. Elven society is driven by tradition rather than innovation – by absolutely perfecting the techniques of the past instead of developing entirely new ways of doing things. Innovation does happen – and an Aereni player character might be the great elf innovator of this age – but it isn’t enshrined as a cultural value as it often is among humanity…

Part of the idea is that what the elves see as sloppy Arcanix techniques might actually be BETTER than the ancient Aereni traditions; certainly they’re easier to learn. But the elves take comfort in adherence to what they know.

Thanks again to my Patreon supporters, and I’ll tackle another question tomorrow!

Exploring Eberron Previews

Illustration by Kristof Koteles

March has continued to be a crazy time. I was helping with gaming events on the JoCo Cruise, so I just returned from a week on the oceans… and I did come back sick, though fortunately not with Covid-19. So I’ve been recovering from that and adjusting to the new pace of life on land. I am still writing, and this means that we don’t have a firm release date for Exploring Eberron yet; I will tell you as soon as we do. However, editing and layout continue on the completed sections of the book. Wayne Chang and Laura Hirsbrunner have been working tirelessly to keep things moving forward, and I wanted to share the week’s previews!

Above is the opening of the bestiary chapter, featuring the daelkyr Valaara. Other sections of the book discuss Valaara’s cults and symbionts, while this chapter includes statistics for the Crawling Queen. Just to maintain some suspense, we’ve concealed the names of the other creatures in the section, but at least you know what types of creatures lie ahead. These creatures are tied to the other content in the book, so there’s a few tied to the planes, a few tied to the oceans, and a few other surprises.

Image by Lucas Guerrini

We’ve also finished layout on Chapter 6, which covers magic items and other treasures. While the first page just gives examples of common, everyday items, there’s a wide range of treasures in this section tied to different cultures and places. That item hanging on the wall is a conversion of the Coat of Eyes, which originally appeared in my 4E adventure Khyber’s Harvest.

Work continues! We’ll have more news and previews next week.

Dragonmarks: Modern Medicine

Could there be a pandemic in Eberron? A plague spread by the Children of Winter, or a bioweapon created by the nosomantic chiurgeons of House Jorasco? How does disease even work in a world where lesser restoration can remove any disease? Given events in our world, these things are on my mind and I thought I’d tackle them with a series of articles. This post will take a quick look at medicine in the Five Nations; a follow-up article will explore the role of disease and plagues in campaigns.

HEALTH AND HEALING

Fifth edition presents a largely abstract view of health. As I’ve mentioned before, hit points are a very nebulous concept—a blend of actual physical health and luck, skill, or willpower. A character can regain hit points by spending hit dice during a short rest, and is fully restored after a long rest. When you use the Medicine skill, all you need to do is role a die. But remember that when we play D&D, we are building a story together. The rules provide a foundation for that story, but it’s up to the DM and players to add the details. MECHANICALLY you’re as good as new after a long rest, and you don’t have to do anything other than hang out for eight hours to get that benefit. But if there’s a character with the Medicine skill in your party, you might tell the story of how that character worked to patch you up during that long rest—how they had to stitch up a particularly deep wound, how they gave you a shot of Irian-infused water to keep you on your feet or rubbed a Mabaran salve on your arm to numb the pain. When someone uses the Medicine skill or an herablism kit, they or the DM can DESCRIBE them as using medical tools or techniques, even if all the PLAYER does is roll a die. The point is that the rules keep things simple; we don’t WANT player characters to spend a long time sitting on the sidelines recovering from a sprained ankle or a broken rib. But you can DESCRIBE that process of recovery in as much detail as you want.

Also, remember that in fifth edition the rules that apply to player characters don’t necessarily apply to NPCs! YOU may recover fully after a long rest, because you’re the protagonist of the story; you’re the hero in the action movie who keeps pushing on after enduring ridiculous amounts of damage. But the DM can say that an NPC takes longer to recover from a serious wound—that a city guard will need days of bedrest to recover after being dropped to zero hit points, even if they were stabilized and healed. Player characters are remarkable. We can highlight this by showing that other people DO need more time to recuperate than player characters… or their particularly remarkable opponents.

JORASCO SERVICESR

In the Five Nations, most people rely on House Jorasco for medical services. As I’ve discussed in previous articles, priests in most temples and churches aren’t spellcasters; they provide spiritual guidance, not spellcasting services. So the Jorasco healing house serves the common role of a clinic or hospital in our world. Villages or communities that don’t have a dedicated healing house will still usually have a Jorasco-trained healer, whether it’s an heir of the house or someone who learned their skills from the Healer’s Guild.

Page 10 of Rising From The Last War lists the services you can obtain from House Jorasco. The first two are tied to the Medicine skill: Minor nonmagical care or major nonmagical care. This ties back to the idea that just because PLAYER CHARACTERS don’t have to deal with sprains, concussions, broken bones, and such, these things still exist in the world! Likewise, most people rely on nonmagical treatment for diseases. Lesser restoration provides an instant cure, but the 50 gp cost is beyond the reach of most commoners. But again: there’s nothing wrong with nonmagical care. The skill is called MEDICINE; it reflects the use of medicines and medical techniques—setting broken bones, disinfecting wounds, treating fevers, and on and on. Again, most player characters never need these things; but the common people do, and Jorasco provides these services.

Then we get to magical services. Lesser restoration costs 50 gp; remove curse is 75 gp; greater restoration is 150 gp. Who provides these services? What does this help actually look like? Here again, player characters are remarkable. The typical Jorasco healer isn’t a cleric; they’re a magewright. Per page 318 of Rising From The Last War, a magewright casts lesser restoration as a ritual that takes an hour and that requires “additional material components” that cost up to 40 gp. MECHANICALLY this is a “ritual that requires components.” But this is where the idea of arcane science enters the picture. I don’t see a Jorasco healer as sitting next to you chanting for that hour, and then POOF you’re healed. In my opinion, the “ritual” reflects medical work. They may be using divining rods and Irian salves instead of CAT scans and antibiotics, but they are starting with a foundation of mundane skill and then ADDING magic to accelerate the effects and perform healing that is impossible with skill alone. You can have the Jorasco chiurgeon shouting “I need a Lamannian rod and 5 cc’s of Mabaran moss, STAT!” as they work to break your curse or cure your disease. Likewise, the spell uses “40 gp of additional components”—but those components might be ENTIRELY DIFFERENT depending on WHAT they are treating. So: mechanically, a Jorasco healer can cure cackle fever or sewer plague by casting lesser restoration. But how they cure these two different diseases might LOOK entirely different. And once you accept the idea that different diseases require different components to treat them, you have the possibility that a Jorasco house could run out of the components needed to cure a specific disease! Now, refined Eberron shards can take the place of any costly component, and this can help with an outbreak; but if you’re in an isolated village, residuum could be harder to find than Mabaran moss. To be clear, this isn’t a concern for player characters. When your cleric casts lesser restoration it’s NOT a ritual and doesn’t require components… but again, that’s because player characters are remarkable!

How does the Mark of Healing factor into this? The simple answer is that most magewrights with the Healer specialty are assumed to be halflings with the Mark of Healing; they are able to master this specialty because they have the mark, and they are channeling the powers of the mark any time they cast their rituals. This is the same as the concept that you could play a Jorasco Life cleric who presents their healing magic as being drawn from their mark as opposed to religious faith. So they ARE using the mark to heal; it’s just that this uses standard magewright mechanics.

All of these same principles apply to the other services that Jorasco offers. Remove curse can be presented as a sort of magical infection. It’s not that the Jorasco healer mumbles for an hour and the curse stops; it’s that they perform a sort of mystical surgery, literally carving the curse out of your aura. While the RULES say remove curse never fails when cast on a player character, it’s still possible that it doesn’t always work on NPCs and that it’s normally potentially dangerous! Note that greater restoration is a 5th level spell—beyond the standard wide magic available in the Five Nations—and that Rising notes that only Jorasco’s finest healers can perform the ritual.

And finally, there’s raise dead. This is supposed to be a rare service, something available only at the finest Jorasco houses. This is typically tied to a focus item, the altar of resurrection. But there’s a number of points that have been spread out across various sourcebooks. The first is the idea that again, while Raise Dead always works on PLAYER CHARACTERS, it’s NOT reliable for NPCs! First of all, memory starts to fade as soon as a soul reaches Dolurrh. Someone has to CHOOSE to return to life… and if they’ve spend too much time in Dolurrh, they may no longer remember why they want to return. Even if they wish to return, sometimes the spell just doesn’t work. Sometimes it can restore life but draw the wrong soul back into the body. Or it may summon a number of hostile ghosts while leaving the corpse dead… or draw a marut that seeks to destroy the would-be healer. This is why wealthy people AREN’T automatically raised immediately after death; because for most people it simply isn’t a valid argument. What we’ve said is that IF a Jorasco house has the ability to raise the dead, they will always cast augury before raise dead… and if the proposed resurrection draws a result of woe, they will refuse to take the case. Essentially, raise dead is a tool that lets us bring player characters and crucial villains back from the dead; but it’s not a service for everyone! This is a topic I’ve discussed in more detail before: this article explores resurrection and alternatives to death, while this article considers the idea that you could add a personal price to resurrection beyond the components of the spell.

WHAT ABOUT FAITH HEALING?

As I’ve said: in the Five Nations, people don’t go to temples to be healed, they go to hospitals. But what about places like Thrane, where divine magic is more widespread? Or the Eldeen Reaches, where there’s more of an emphasis on primal magic than on the industrial magic of House Jorasco?

The Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron discusses the idea of adepts, divine or primal counterparts to arcane magewrights. Page 127 of Rising notes that “divine adepts provide important services.” There still ARE Jorasco houses in Thrane, it’s simply that divine magic IS more widespread. You still wouldn’t go to the temple and ask the priest to cure you, but there are clinics tied to the Church of the Silver Flame where adepts can heal you. Such clinics can also be found in other nations, typically tied to adepts of Olladra; in the Eldeen Reaches, there are druidic adepts—often called gleaners—who may be able to perform healing rituals. The magic of an adept LOOKS different than that of a magewright; a Silver Flame adept will chant while they treat you, while seeking to excise malign influences with blades of light. But a critical point is that mechanically there’s no difference between an adept and a magewright, which means that this healing still takes an hour to perform and still costs the adept 40 gp. The components may be DIFFERENT than those used by the arcane magewright, but the point is that magically healing generally can’t be offered for free because it’s not free for the caster. In the Eldeen Reaches, it’s not that a druid spends 40 gp to buy components; it’s that the ritual consumes rare roots and herbs (likely charged with the essence of Lamannia or Irian) that would have such a value if they had to buy them. Usually people rely on the Medicine skill because magic has a price.

Q&A

Is the germ theory of disease known in Eberron? Or is there some truth to the humoral theory in a fantasy world where the four elements are more of a real thing than in our own? This would come into play in order to determine such behaviour as hand-washing and sterilisation of instruments or blood letting. For that matter, is there room for alternative medicines, rejecting that of Jorasco?

To answer the last question first, there’s DEFINITELY room for alternative theories and approaches to medicine. I expect that Riedra and Aerenal have dramatically different approaches to medicine. However, the crucial point is that MECHANICALLY this all works out to using the Medicine skill and to the benefits of resting. You can DESCRIBE it with exotic color, but at the end of the day it doesn’t MATTER if your healer is using Jorasco traditions or Riedran qi manipulation; the result is the same.

Going back to the first part of the question, this touches on an interesting point. Because it’s not simply whether the people of Eberron are familiar with germ theory, it’s the question of are most diseases in Eberron actually caused by germs? This is a world where werewolves, undead, and fiends are REAL THREATS. Lycanthropy isn’t caused by germs, and there could be any number of other diseases in Eberron that are actually cause by a mild form of demonic possession or by transmutation effects. There’s definitely a school of medicine that is based on the balance between planar influences, asserting that if you have a fever it’s because your Fernian influences are too high and you need to be treated with Risian ice… And in Eberron, that may be true. So there are germborne diseases in Eberron, but it’s not the ONLY form of disease out there and may not be the foundation of Jorasco treatment. I’ll talk more about kinds of diseases in the follow-up article, but the main point is, again, that this is somewhat cosmetic. Whether the disease is caused by a germ or an evil spirt, you counter it with rest, Medicine, or lesser restoration. These treatments are all tied to theories of medicine, but whichever theory you use, it will work according to the rules. Though you’re certainly free to say Bloodletting is a terrible principle that DOESN’T work, and while there are healers who perform bloodletting, they aren’t proficient in the Medicine skill and provide no actual benefits! Likewise, Jorasco potions of healing are reliable, but if you buy your healing potions from some unlicensed charlatan, you could find that all you’ve bought is snake oil. Trust that Jorasco logo!

Do the people of Eberron know how to prevent/treat scurvy or what it really is? 

This is similar to the preceding question, and could ultimately be asked about any disease from our world. But Eberron’s not our world. For all we know, the Ring of Siberys could radiate an aura of vitamin C, and it could be impossible to have a C deficiency in Eberron. There’s no rules for scurvy in 5E, and it’s never been mentioned as a problem in any sourcebook, so the default is that it’s not a problem—either because it’s been identified and people know how to deal with it, or because for some reason ((C-rays from the Ring of Siberys!) it’s just not an issue. I’ll talk about this more in the follow-up post, but the short form is that you need to decide what diseases you want to be threats, and ultimately what makes a good story. Personally, I don’t feel that players running out of oranges and catching scurvy is a story I want to tell, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing so!

If magewrights can carve a curse out of a person’s aura, was this ever suggested as a solution during the Lycanthropic Inquisition by Jorasco or the Silver Flame’s own minor healers?

Certainly. Under the rules of fifth edition, that’s EXACTLY how you treat lycanthropy: you cast remove curse, and if you’re doing it as a magewright ritual that means you’re performing just this sort of spiritual surgery. However, there’s a few factors here as regards the Silver Crusade…

  • Bear in mind that especially early on, I’m sure the templars DID cure people when they had the ability to do so. It simply wasn’t viable as an overall solution to the problem, based on resources, the number of lycanthropes, and the fact that you would have to capture and hold lycanthropes alive to do this—and especially in the early days of the Purge, the odds were stacked against the Templars. They didn’t have the luxury of trying to take most of their enemies alive; they were lucky if THEY could stay alive.
  • If you’re using magewrights or adepts, you need 60 gp worth of specialized components to cast that ritual. What are those components? Are they specialized to each type of lycanthropy (IE, you need to treat a wereboar with different herbs than a wererat), or general? It’s quite reasonable to say that when the Crusade began the templars didn’t have either full knowledge of proper treatment or that they simply didn’t have access to sufficient supplies of the appropriate components—and this was before the residuum revolution which lets you use refined dragonshards instead of any component.
  • Critically: Lycanthropy during the Purge was different from lycanthropy as it exists today. This is literally true, as the rules for curing lycanthropy in 3.5 rules are far more difficult that just casting remove curse. It either has to be done by a 12th level cleric within three days of the affliction (and 12th level clerics are VERY rare in Eberron) or it has to be attempted during a full moon… and the victim has to make a DC 20 Will save for it to work. Eberron gets a lot of full moons, but still, that’s a lot of time and resources for a ritual that has a very high chance of not working.

The simplest explanation for the change in the rules of lycanthropy is that lycanthropy itself has changed: that the power of the curse is now weaker than it was during the purge, because the influence of the overlord or daelkyr behind the surge has faded… or alternatively, because techniques for treating lycanthropy have advanced significantly over the last century. Either way, lycanthropy can now be effectively treated by a magewright performing remove curse; that doesn’t change the fact that it wasn’t a viable solution to the problem at the height of the purge.

That’s all for now! When time allows, I’ll write a follow-up article about using disease in an Eberron campaign, but my Patreon supporters will decide the topic of the next article. Until then, wash your hands!

IFAQ: Dragonshards and Tharashk

When did dragonshards become important as magical fuel? House Tharashk was discovered in 498 YK. The lightning rail went into operation in 811 YK, but Tharashk only stepped up mining in the Shadow Marches & Q’barra in the past decade? What delayed them so long?

There’s two significant questions here: When did dragonshards become important and why did it take Tharashk so long to start major mining operations in Q’barra?

The spells, items, and services available in 998 YK represent the pinnacle of arcane science. Like any form of science, these things didn’t emerge into the world fully formed. The lightning rail of 811 YK was the result of decades of research and development—and it was quite different than the lightning rail of 998 YK. It originally used volatile Fernian ash as its fuel, and both the binding and the conductor stones had flaws.

Eberron dragonshards are found across Eberron. Xen’drik, the Shadow Marches, and Q’barra are especially rich sources of dragonshards, but there are dragonshard deposits across Khorvaire. Eberron dragonshards are an important element in the creation of magic items and in maintaining ongoing magical effects—such as the lightning rail and elemental airships. Eberron shards can be refined into a powdered form that can be used in place of any spell component with a cost.

So: it’s possible to perform most forms of arcane science without dragonshards; it just takes a range of different substance, which are usually more exotic and specific to the effect being produced. However, this uses refined Eberron dragonshard powder (also known as residuum). Raw dragonshards can be used, but unless they are processed and refined it’s inefficient; you’re significantly better off using the other alternative. Because of this, the process of refining dragonshards to create residuum was a crucial breakthrough that had cascading effects across the magical economy. While creating magic items still requires a range of additional rare elements, the universal nature of refined dragonshards allowed Cannith and others to dramatically increase both the range and scale of production. Using processed dragonshards as an energy source made the lightning rail safer and allowed Orien to operate more carriages. But again, this process of refining was a breakthrough that occured less than two centuries ago, and it’s a process that continued to be explored.

So: Eberron Dragonshards have always been a valuable source of magical energy, but it wasn’t until the last two centuries that they became as valuable and universal as they are today. Eberron dragonshards CAN be found across Khorvaire, and initially, that supply was sufficient to meet demands. But within the last century that demand has steadily grown—which has in turn driven people to find richer pools to draw on.

This brings us to House Tharashk. Why are their operations in Q’barra only a decade old? House Tharashk began as a house of hunters, not prospectors. For centuries its primary focus was on inquisitive work and bounty hunting. Prospecting is a relatively new path that arose both with the increased demand for dragonshards mentioned above and crucially with the creation of the prospector’s rod. As with many houses, the base powers of the dragonmark aren’t as important as the focus items that channel that power. As the speaking stone is to House Sivis, the prospector’s rod is to Tharashk: it is this tool that expands the powers of the mark beyond the simple scope of casting locate object and allows prospecting on an industrial scale.

In my Eberron, it’s a mistake to say that prospecting in the SHADOW MARCHES only began ten years ago. Dragonmarked calls out that House Sivis originally came to the Shadow Marches in search of dragonshards, and that the mineral wealth of the Shadow Marches has always been a secondary source of wealth for the house. That effort may have increased over the past decade as the house as a whole has realized that there’s more wealth and influence to be gained from dragonshards than bounty hunting, but it’s been something that has been scaling up over the course of the past century.

Q’barra, on the other hand, IS a new development. The world’s a big place, and Tharashk hasn’t been able to search all of it. Prior to the Last War, Q’barra was a shunned backwater thought filled with hostile scales. The Dragon articles call out that it was only ten years ago that settlers discovered rich deposits of dragonshards in Q’barra. Tharashk responded quickly to this discovery and has ramped up its efforts ever since. But why didn’t they go there earlier? Because they already had a rich source of dragonshards in the Shadow Marches and were still expanding their operations, and because no one knew there were dragonshards in Q’barra. It’s entirely possible that there are other rich deposits in Khorvaire that have yet to be discovered!

Ultimately, the key takeaway here is that the arcane industry in Eberron is just like industry and science in our world. It evolves and expands. The current state of things in 998 YK reflects the latest developments; drop back to 498 YK or 811 YK and the world will be a much different place.

Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for keeping this blog going! I’ll be posting a poll to the inner circle soon to determine the subject of the next article.

Dragonmarks: Gnolls and the Znir Pact

Art by Mariana Suarez Otero for Eberron Expanded

In the dawn of time, before the Sovereigns and the Silver Flame, Eberron was the domain of the fiendish overlords. This was an age of chaos, as the overlords constantly clashed with one another. The Rage of War commanded armies of fiends and savages, while the Wild Heart raised hordes of ravenous beasts. In the struggles between the two, the Wild Heart bred dire hyenas that could consume the Zakya warriors of Rak Tulkhesh. But fiends cannot be permanently slain by tooth or claw; their energy remains. Twisted from within by the immortal essence of the demons they’d devoured, the hyenas were warped into something entirely new, something that was neither beast or demon: and so the first gnolls were born.

Formed from both War and the Wild, the first gnolls were recruited and bred by both Rak Tulkhesh and the Wild Heart. As foot soldiers of the overlords they fought against orcs and the other early humanoids, as well as battling gnoll clans serving other overlords. Even after the overlords were defeated and bound by the Silver Flame, gnolls continued to be pawns of the overlords. The fiendish spark burned within them, and when they weren’t directly serving the Lords of Dust, most gnolls engaged in savage acts of brutality. The Dhakaani goblins ruthlessly exterminated gnolls in imperial territories, driving them back into the wilds.

In the present day gnolls are primarily found on the west coast of Khorvaire. Here’s a few notable concentrations of gnolls.

  • Gnolls are found across the Demon Wastes. Some have integrated into the Carrion Tribes, while other clans refuse to have anything to do with other creatures. These gnolls have embraced the Rage of War and engage in endless, ecstatic violence; when there are no outsiders to fight, they find reasons to battle the other clans. There have been times in the past when a great leader has united them and lead a horde through the Labyrinth, and this could happen again; but for the most part they are one of the ongoing dangers of the Demon Wastes, ever hungry to spill blood in the name of Rak Tulkhesh.
  • The gnolls of the Towering Wood are creatures of the Wild Heart. These feral hunters prowl through the Eldeen Reaches, preying on any creatures who cross their paths. These gnolls rarely organize beyond clans. The fact that they don’t form armies limits the overall threat that they pose to the people of the Towering Woods; they’ve never amassed in sufficient numbers to threaten the Greenheart, for example. But because they’re scattered and mobile, the Wardens of the Wood and the shifter tribes of the Towering Woods have never been able to end the threat. Clans melt away into the depths, appearing to strike isolated villages and travelers. Some say that there is a piece of the Towering Wood that can only be found by gnolls and lycanthropes who serve the Wild Heart—a dark haven where these feral forces build their strength and wait to strike.
  • There at least two gnoll clans that live deep in the King’s Forest of Breland. While smaller than the clans of the Towering Wood, these gnolls are likewise driven by the Wild Heart; they are cruel hunters who take pleasure in terrifying their quarry. Typically they remain in the wildest, darkest depths of the King’s Forest, avoiding the Knight Rangers and restricting their attacks to those fools who stray far from the safe paths. But there have been times when their numbers have grown, and when gnoll raiders have emerged from the Forest to prey on surrounding villagers.

While savage gnolls are often tied to the Rage of War or the Wild Heart, few know those names. Clans are guided by warlocks and fiendish visions, and each clan has its own name for the power that fuels their thirst for blood. The gnolls of Rak Tulkhesh show more martial discipline, while the gnolls of the Wild Heart are feral and cunning. Both are uniformly cruel, taking pleasure not simply in spilling blood but in instilling terror in their prey. The last great raid across the Labyrinth was centuries ago, but the people of Aundair still share grisly tales of the horrors unleashed by the pillaging gnolls, and Brelish children know gnolls devour those fools who stray from the path. This uniform cruelty is unusual in Eberron, where goblins are often more honorable than humans and orcs may be champions of the light. But gnolls aren’t natural creatures; they were shaped by overlords, and the essence of demons flows through their veins. They were bred to spill blood and sow terror, and for countless generations they gleefully embraced that path. But there are gnolls who reject the foul influence of their creators… such as the Znir Pact of Droaam.

THE ZNIR PACT

The region now known as Droaam has long been home to gnoll clans. The Rage of War seeks endless battle, and when there is no greater conflict it delights in setting its minions against one another. For countless generations, gnolls fought troll, ogre, and other gnolls seeking blood for their hungry idols. Centuries ago two gnolls from rival clans faced one another on a battlefield soaked in the blood of their kin and questioned the path that had led them there. The two urged others to deny the voice that called for endless war, to refuse to chase death in the service of a fiend. Two became four, then eight, until entire clans heeded the call. Clan leaders dragged their idols to the place now known as Znir—a word that simply means stone—and there they shattered the images of the fiends they once served. Together the gathered hunters, shamans, and warriors swore an oath: They might be many clans, but from this day forward they would be one pack. They would allow no one—not chieftain, god, or demon—to hold dominion over them.

This was easier said than done. Fighting the fiendish influence within was challenging enough, but the western wilds were a chaotic tapestry of battling forces. The leaders of the newly forged Pact had no desire to rule over other creatures, but even just holding their territory would invite attack. And so they developed the path that has carried them forward to this day: the road of the mercenary. The gnolls would claim no territory beyond the lands around Znir. They would fight for any who would pay a fair price. But if anyone sought to enslave a gnoll, or to strike against Znir itself, they would face the wrath of all of the united clans. This was a lesson that had to be taught many times, but after a century or so, the point was made. To those who paid them, the gnolls were as reliable as stone. Those who betrayed them or who picked a fight would fall before the might of the full Pact.

Some scholars of the Five Nations find it strange that the Znir Pact never took the path of conquest. There was no parallel to the united force of the Pact within the region, and they could have defeated the various chieftains and warlords they served. But the fact is that the gnolls have never had a desire to rule other creatures. They love the hunt and the thrill of battle. The path of the Pact allows them to do what comes naturally—to stalk and kill, to fight endless battles. But they do so together. They choose the paths they follow and the battles they fight. One could look at the Pact and say that they serve many masters. But the Znir gnoll would respond that they serve only themselves: that they choose who they fight for, that they set the terms of their service.

Znir Clans

The Znir gnolls include a dozen different clans, each of which holds onto distinct traditions. Once the clans were devoted to different faces of the overlords, but when they shattered the statue, each clan chose one of the moons. All gnolls hunt and fight, but the Barrakas are known to be the finest trackers of the Pact; the Aryth the deadliest archers; and the Olarune are the strongest warriors and most forceful in the vanguard. Typically, mercenary units are comprised of gnolls of a single clan, assigned based on the nature of the task that lies ahead, and contracts are usually negotiated for a period based on cycles of the clan’s moon. The clans maintain distinct territories within the Znir region. Despite this, all gnolls are welcome around the hearth of any clan; the Znir take pains to crush any tension that arrises between the clans. Shamans and leaders from each clan maintain a council at the Znir, around the broken idols. Here they mediate disputes, assign contracts to clans, and allocate funds and equipment. The Eyre clan have honed their skills as smiths and tanners, and they craft much of the equipment used by the Znir gnolls… though there is still a strong tradition of scavenging among the Znir, and warriors will often claim trophies from fallen foes.

Gnoll vs Gnoll

Droaam is a small place, and the Znir will serve any who will pay a fair price. This inevitably leads to conflict between Znir gnolls. In such situations, Znir will fight one another with all their skill. But they will strike to wound… and a gnoll wounded by another gnoll will immediately withdraw from battle, no matter how superficial the wound. While some clients take umbrage at this—You can still fight! Get back out there!—this is an absolute rule of all Znir contracts, and those who defy this will be punished by the united clans.

In general, the Znir take their contracts seriously. If the client breaks the terms of the agreement, the contract immediately ends. As long as terms are met, Znir will face any danger and will never betray a client. They have earned this reputation over the course of centuries, and this gives them a place much like the Sentinel Marshals of House Deneith in Khorvaire; everyone knows that the word of the Znir is as unbreakable as stone.

The Daughters and Tharashk

In their rise to power, the Daughters of Sora Kell have contracted for fully half of the forces of the Znir Pact (divided among all clans). This is an extended contract, under which the gnolls serve both as soldiers, hunters, and peacekeepers. Most large communities have a Znir garrison that’s serving the Daughters. These troops are present to protect the region from brigands or invaders, and to help maintain order. But they serve the Daughters, not the local warlord; it’s understood that if the warlord turns against the Daughters, the local Znir will act in their interests. The remainder of the Pact serves other masters. Many warlords maintain their own Znir forces, either as bodyguards, enforcers, or hunters. House Tharashk has also begun brokering the services of Znir gnolls within the Five Nations. The Pact is still cautious about this arrangement, however. Within Droaam, Znir customs are known and respected, and the Znir can unite against anyone who defies them. The Znir recognize that they don’t hold such power over the rulers of the Five Nations… and thus they are concerned about serving so far from their stones. In addition to those who serve through House Tharashk, a number of Znir have been sent east to study the Five Nations, gathering knowledge of its people and customs so the Znir council can determine how to engage with the wider world. This scouting role is a reasonable path for a gnoll player character; it’s their job to travel the world beyond and learn its ways, and to make friends and allies.

The Demon Within

The Znir defied the overlords when they shattered their statues, but there is still a spark of a fiend in the blood of each gnoll. Znir refuse to allow the demon within to hold dominion over them. Young gnolls learn how to resist this influence—to channel the strength of the fiend without giving it power over them. For most gnolls this is simply a matter of discipline. Znir gnolls are known for remaining calm in the face of provocation; having learned to fight their own demons, they aren’t easily manipulated by mortals. However, some gnolls learn to draw on their unnatural heritage and to channel this power in useful ways. Znir gnolls have their own equivalents of rangers and barbarians; the ranger’s primal magic draws on the Wild Heart, while the barbarian channels the fury of the Rage of War. Znir shamans are similar to warlocks, typically following the path of the Fiend. However, in all of these examples, the Znir don’t serve the dark power. Rather, they can be seen as stealing their strength from it; learning to draw on it without giving anything in return.

In their determination not to let fiendish forces hold dominion over their people, the Znir gnolls have also developed their own techniques for fighting supernatural threats. Champions trained to face fiends and undead are known as hwyri, and wield powers similar to those of paladins in other lands. However, hwyri don’t worship any divine power. Their abilities come from training and understanding of the demon within; they aren’t crusaders, they’re mercenary demon hunters. Most hwyri come from the Vult clan, and in a land that shuns the Silver Flame, these gnolls can be the best hope for people facing fiendish threats. There has been some tension between the Vult and the lycanthropes of the Dark Pack; the Vult shamans suspect that the Pack is vulnerable to the influence of the Wild Heart.

ZNIR GNOLL TRAITS

Exploring Eberron will include my rules for Znir gnoll player characters. For the moment, here’s a few general tips on playing a Znir gnoll.

  • Bone Eaters. Gnolls possess powerful jaws, as reflected by their bite attack. Gnolls can chew through and digest bone, and dislike letting food go to waste. When savage gnolls raid a village, they will consume even the bones of their victims. Znir gnolls won’t eat their fallen foes if they’re in the company of creatures who will be uncomfortable with such behavior. But they will often eat a small piece of any creature they slay—even if it’s just a finger—to form a bond with the victim. The Znir believe that those you kill wait for you in the realm of death, and honoring them ensures that they won’t be hungry when you travel to that land.
  • Pack Instincts. Gnolls have very strong pack instincts. They instinctively work together in combat, and they think nothing of placing themselves in harm’s way to protect their kin. Znir gnolls will not deceive members of their pack; if there are problems, they will call them out directly. If a gnoll character adopts a group of adventurers as their temporary pack, these things apply to the other players—but they will be surprised and angry if their non-gnoll packmates don’t show them the same respect.
  • Casual Aggression. Gnolls often seem very aggressive to other creatures. However, gnolls themselves don’t consider casual intimidation to be a hostile act; it’s just a way to establish a place in the hierarchy of the pack, largely ignored once that hierarchy is established. One of the most common ways this manifests is that gnolls make demands rather than requests. As a gnoll, use active statements rather than passive queries.
  • Cunning Hunters. Gnolls are strong and aggressive by nature. But both the Znir gnolls and there savage kin are cunning hunters rather than simple brutes. Gnolls work together as a pack, always searching for weaknesses in enemies and supporting injured allies. Znir goals won’t break their word, but they don’t hold to any idea of honorable conduct on the battlefield; they are ruthless and efficient, and see nothing wrong with ambushing or tricking a superior foe. Some gnolls have a supernatural knack for minicry, and will use this gift to draw enemies into danger.
  • The Fiend Within. As a gnoll, there is a spark of demonic influence within you. The Znir learn to control this at an early age. But how does it manifest in you? Do you suppress it completely, or do you channel it in some way—possibly reflected by your class abilities? Are you a hwyri who seeks to fight supernatural threats, or are you not concerned with such things?

That’s all I have time for today, but you’ll find more about gnolls and the Znir Pact in Exploring Eberron! Thanks to my Patreon supporters, who keep this site going and who chose this topic!

iFAQ: Warforged, Blood, and the Blood of Vol

People ask me a lot of questions about Eberron. While I’ve typically answered the most frequently asked questions at sometime in the past, every now and then there’s an INFREQUENTLY asked question that still seems like it’s worth answering. Over the last few weeks two of those have come my way. How could a warforged become a cleric of the Blood of Vol? And can a warforged become a vampire?

Could a Warforged Become a Cleric of the Blood of Vol?

The Blood of Vol is based on the principle that the blood of the living holds a spark of divine power, and that all mortals have the potential to harness and evolve that Divinity Within. A Seeker cleric believes they are drawing on their own divine spark when they cast spells.

Warforged don’t have blood. Therefore, it seems logical to assume that they don’t have the spark of the Divinity Within. So why would they follow the Blood of Vol, and how could a warforged Seeker paladin or cleric justify their divine magic?

To begin with, let’s start with the WHY. Ultimately, the Blood of Vol faith is grounded in the question what just god would allow death and suffering, with the conclusion none; the fact that we suffer shows that if there are gods, they are cruel. All we have is each other, and we must stand together and defy death. The Seekers place a strong emphasis on community and protecting the weak. Any death is tragic. They use undead because once the spark is gone, there’s no reason NOT to use the corpse if it can help protect the living. More powerful undead—vampires, mummies—know that they will never achieve divinity, as they lost their divine spark when they died; but they can still fight to defend and to guide the living, to be champions of life… and perhaps someday topple the Sovereigns themselves and free the entire world from the curse of mortality. This is where the warforged Seeker comes in. They have no blood, and presumably no divine spark. But they are immune to disease and to the ravages of time. A warforged is in many ways much like a mummy. They can’t achieve true divinity, but they can protect and guide others. So the warforged Seeker priest isn’t driven by a desire for personal power; rather, they are driven by compassion and the desire to protect their community from suffering and death.

But what about the HOW? If Seeker clerics draw their power from their own blood, how do they get magic? Well, first of all, remember that the “drawing power from within” is an article of faith. They don’t KNOW the power comes from within with any more absolute certainty than a paladin of Dol Arrah knows that their power comes from Dol Arrah. So one option is to simply say “It works, don’t question it.” But the other example is to look to the mummy. Malevanor, the high priest of the Blood of Vol in Atur, is a mummy. He has no blood. So how does he cast spells? There’s two simple answers. The first is the idea that he draws on the divinity of the people around him. This ties to the strong community focus of the Blood of Vol; he can’t attain personal divinity, but he can draw on that potential within you and use that power to protect or heal you. With that said, what happens if you’re not around? Well, Seeker communities donate blood to sustain their champions. Vampires drink this blood, and while it is within them this connects them to the sparks of the living. Seeker mummies and liches BATHE in the blood of the faithful, and this charges their power for a short time.

So for your warforged cleric, the simplest answer is that they draw their power from the rest of the party! If you want to be creepy about it and the rest of the characters are willing, they could actually get blood donations from the party. But you could also just say that the proximity spark does the trick. On the other hand, you could also just say that they don’t KNOW how it works, but it does work… and that they BELIEVE it’s because they (and presumably all other warforged) have divinity within as well, despite having no blood. This would certainly be an interesting long term arc to explore!

Having said all that, back around 2005 I worked with David Esbri—who was at the time doing illustrations for the RPGA—on an early concept for an Eberron comic. One of the villains in that was a Warforged tied to the Emerald Claw who had embedded components allowing it to drain blood from its victims… essentially, an artificial vampire who believed that he could use this blood to become divine. So you could always explore a more exotic path!

Can Warforged Become Vampires?

There’s many answers to this question. The simple answer is that under the rules of 3.5 they couldn’t; “vampire” was a template that couldn’t be applied to constructs, and 3.5 warforged were constructs. The 5E rules have changed, however, and by the rules as written a warforged can become a vampire. However, the rules are guidelines, not absolute and inflexible! In my opinion, this is a case where the DM has to decide what they want from the STORY. Does it make SENSE for a warforged to be able to become a vampire, when it has no blood and doesn’t eat in the first place?

In my campaign, I would say that no, a warforged cannot become a vampire. A vampire can drain the LIFE FORCE from a warforged, but it has no blood for a vampire to drink. Vampire spawn rise when “buried in the soil”—I don’t see this having much meaning for a warforged. I DO think that warforged can become undead—that they can become vessels for the power of Mabar, channels through which it can consume the essence of the living—but I would be inclined to create a unique warforged expression of vampirism, rather than just forcing the standard bloodthirsty form onto them. I’d see it as draining energy like a wight as opposed to drinking blood, and I’d consider which of the traditional vampire powers made sense and what it might have instead.

That’s all I have time for today! Have you used warforged seekers or undead in your campaign?