Exploring Eberron: The Cover

Eberron: Rising From The Last War is out in the world, but I’d still hard at work on my next project. Rising provides a basic introduction to the setting, while Exploring Eberron delves deeper into aspects of the world that have received relatively little attention—from the aquatic nations of the Thunder Sea to the newly introduced idea of the Mror dwarves working with symbionts. As part of the development cycle we commissioned new art from a host of fantastic artists. The image above is the mock-up of the front cover; below you can see the full wrap-around image, designed by artist Thomas Bourdon.

In developing the book, Wayne Chang and I developed a few iconic characters who appear in multiple images. Here they’re dealing with a few friends from Dal Quor (note the portal in the background), which ties to the planar content in the book. But each one has their own story. Ban is a golin’dar (goblin) rogue with ties to the Sharaat’khesh. Dela Harn d’Cannith is an artificer with the Mark of Making, pursuing research forbidden by her house. Rev is a warforged barbarian who’s been extensively repaired and tinkered on by Dela; his name is short for “Revenant,” after a comrade remarked on the number of times Dela brought him back to life. Rusty is a dwarf warlock and wandslinger from the Mror Holds. And Gentle is a kalashtar monk. If you’re wondering what’s up with her claws, Gentle and Dela are both using subclass options presented in the book, while Rusty’s symbionts are also in the book.

Let me know what you think of the cover! And thanks as always to my Patreon supporters!

Rising From The Last War: The Warforged

The warforged are one of the defining elements of Eberron. Sentient golems created to fight in the Last War, they must find their purpose and place in the world now that the war is over.

Warforged are often dismissed as “magical robots,” but it’s a flawed analogy. Warforged are formed from wood and metal, but they are living creatures. Their musculature is formed from a rootlike substances, and they have a circulatory system of alchemical fluids. A warforged can be healed, and they can even be poisoned, though it’s not easy. Warforged have feelings, and while this is something that’s debated in Eberron itself, the fact is that they have souls; the real mystery is where those souls come from. Robot or not, a warforged character is quite different from other species. As a warforged you don’t eat, sleep, or breathe. Your armor is your skin. Whether you embrace it or rebel against it, you were created for a purpose and your class features may be reflected in your physical design. A warforged barbarian could describe their Rage as entering an advanced battle mode, while a warforged sorcerer could present themselves as a living wand.

The warforged have gone through multiple design iterations in Eberron, from an early Unearthed Arcana article when Fifth Edition was first released to a more developed version in the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron. The final version released in Rising is quite different from Wayfinder’s, and I want to discuss those changes.

Integrated Protection

When the warforged were released in the original Eberron Campaign Setting, one of their defining features was that they didn’t wear armor; they WERE armor. In that early edition a warforged character used a feat to set their armor class, and once set, they had it for the rest of their life. This added a unique flavor to the race, though it did require a character to burn a feat. In the earliest draft of the WGtE, we mimicked this original model by tying armor type to subrace. The juggernaut subrace had the equivalent of heavy armor, the skirmisher was medium, and the envoy was light. This mirrored that original design; you made a choice at first level and that defined your armor moving forward. But it clashed with the inherent flexibility that’s a pillar of Fifth Edition. So it was shifted shortly before release to a model that allowed a warforged to transform their integrated protection—a bit of an odd idea, but the original warforged juggernaut prestige class had introduced the idea that warforged could evolve their bodies, so it wasn’t without precedent.

While this approach added flexibility, it raised a lot of questions and corner cases. Did Integrated Protection count as wearing armor for purposes of feat prerequisites? How did it interact with class features, such as Fighting Styles? Could it be targeted by heat metal (which was a threat to warforged in 3.5!). Likewise, because warforged couldn’t acquire new armor, we tried out a mechanic that let them add their proficiency bonus to their armor class, essentially self-enchanting as they gained levels. This was INTERESTING, but there were many concerns about its impact on game balance.

This all led to the current approach. In Rising From The Last War, a warforged has “defensive layers that can be enhanced with armor.” A warforged has an innate +1 bonus to Armor Class, and can don or remove armor. It’s noted that to don armor, you must “incorporate it into your body,” a process that takes an hour. Once you do this, it cannot be removed against your will.

Some people feel that this undermines the idea of warforged. But this is a matter of perception. Don’t think of it as warforged WEARING armor as other characters do. You don’t just wear armor; you incorporate it into your body. When a warforged goes through this hour-long process, they are literally peeling off their outer plating, disassembling the new armor and fusing it to their body, piece by piece. It’s like a human peeling off their skin and gluing new skin on. A critical point for me is that this isn’t easy or comfortable, and it’s not something many warforged ever do. MOST warforged live their entire lives using the armor they were first forged with, because it’s not EQUIPMENT for them, it’s their body. However, if there is a need, they are CAPABLE of going through this extreme process of body modification, removing their plating and incorporating new armor.

Ultimately, this approach to armor is cleaner from the perspective of both interaction with other rules elements and long-term character balance. It doesn’t change the IDEA that warforged have a different relationship to their armor than other creatures do. Don’t think of it as “wearing armor”; think of it as modifying your body. It’s also up to you to decide what this looks like. You are incorporating the armor into your body, not wearing it. You don’t look like a person in armor; you look like a warforged.

Warforged Subraces

The original Unearthed Arcana included three warforged subraces. These are notably missing from Rising From The Last War. The simple reason for this is that the subraces were themselves a holdover from the earlier design where Armor Class was tied to subrace. The Envoy warforged was an inherently stronger subrace than the Juggernaut, because originally the Envoy was limited to light protection and the Juggernaut had heavy armor. It was a parallel to the original 3.5 design in which warforged chose feats that locked in their armor class at 1st level. Once this limitation was removed from Integrated Protection, the foundation for subraces was no longer there.

The element I’m sad to lose from the subraces is the idea of the Envoy having an integrated tool. The picture above is of a character I played in a local Eberron campaign—the warforged druid Rose, who has an integrated herbalism kit. I love the idea of a warforged being designed for a specific purpose, and having the tool to perform that function as an inherent part of their body. However, this was never intended to be the default for all warforged. Again, in the original design the Envoy was limited to light armor; they were supposed to be rare prototypes, not the most common design. With that said, I still love the concepts that can be created using integrated tools, so you’ll find some variations of this idea in Exploring Eberron, the book I’m currently creating for the DM’s Guild; the portrait of Rose above is an illustration from this book. One of these is the addition of an integrated tool as a common magic item, parallel to the armblade; with the DM’s permission, a warforged character could begin with an integrated tool, reflecting the idea that it was part of their original design. I’m including the text of that tool below as a sneak peek, but there’s another approach in the book for warforged who don’t want to sacrifice an attunement slot.

Exploring Eberron: Integrated Tool

Wondrous item, common (requires attunement by a warforged)

An integrated tool can be created using any of the following: any artisan’s tools weighing no more than 10 pounds; any musical instrument weighing no more than 10 pounds; a forgery kit; an herbalism kit; or thieves’ tools. When you attune to the item, it merges with your body and cannot be removed as long as you’re attuned to it. While the tool is part of your body, you must have your hands free in order to make use of the tool.

That’s all for now. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who keep this website going!

Eberron: Rising From The Last War

Fifteen years after it was first released, Eberron has finally come to Fifth Edition! Rising From The Last War is available at last. I am thrilled to have been involved with this, and especially to have had a chance to work with Jeremy Crawford and James Wyatt again; James was part of the original team that developed the world with me for Third Edition, and it was definitely good to get the band back together.

Now the book is out, those of you who’ve played the setting in previous editions may wonder what’s new? What’s changed? I’m going to give a quick overview of some of the changes. Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll be discussing each of these changes in more detail; in particular, tomorrow I’ll take a deeper look at the evolution of the warforged. Before I dive into the details, I want to thank my Patreon supporters who make it possible for me to maintain this site, and also to call out Olie Boldador for the image above. This was commissioned for Exploring Eberron, the book I’m currently writing for the DM’s Guild. With that said, let’s get down to the details.

What’s Changed?

First and foremost, Eberron: Rising From The Last War brings the world of Eberron to Fifth Edition. It’s been ten years since Eberron was released for Fourth Edition, and the goal was never to change the world, but rather to introduce it to people who might never have encountered it. With this in mind, one thing that hasn’t changed is the timeline. Rising From The Last War is set (by default) in 998 YK, four years after the Day of Mourning and two years after the Treaty of Thronehold brought the Last War to an end. However, what Rising does is to take a harder look at the consequences of that timeline—the fact that Khorvaire is only two years out from a bitter civil war that lasted for decades. In the Gazetteer, each nation has a section that discusses the specific impact of the Last War on that nation. There’s also tables of story hooks for characters who fought in the war, and an extended section on how the aftermath of the war could impact a campaign. So the world is the same; we’re just exploring a corner of it that’s been underdeveloped in the past. But here’s a few things that have changed. I’m going to be very brief here, but I’ll discuss each of these in more detail in future posts.

  • The Mror Dwarves. We’ve expanded on a piece of dwarven history. It’s always been part of the setting there there were ancient ruins under the Mror Holds. In Rising we’ve established that there’s a daelkyr down there—that Dyrrn the Corruptor is below the Mror Holds with a horde of aberrations. Most dwarves are prepared to fight to reclaim their ancient lands, but some are willing to use the weapons of their enemy to fight them. Thus, symbionts—the living weapons of the daelkyr—have become a part of the Mror Holds. Some clans embrace them; others despise them.
  • Races. Rising From The Last War presents the unique races of Eberron—the warforged, kalashtar, shifters, and changelings. If you have been following the Unearthed Arcana articles or used the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, you’ll find that these have changed—mostly in small ways, some in larger ways. The core concepts of the races remain intact; it’s purely the mechanics that have been revised. In particular, I’ll discuss the warforged tomorrow.
  • Dragonmarks. Following the precedent of the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, dragonmarks are a subrace option. The Greater Dragonmark feat has been removed for now; in the short term, this effect has been replaced by a feature called Spells of the Mark, which allows dragonmarked spellcasters to treat certain spells as being on their class spell lists. I’ll talk more about this in the future, but you may see a few options for non-spellcasters in Exploring Eberron…
  • The Mournland. Rising From The Last War has an extensive section on the Mournland, providing a lot of material for running adventures in the ruins of Cyre. In 3.5, it was asserted that there were a few absolute rules that applied to the Mournland, specifically that healing didn’t function. Rising dials that back to say that nothing about the Mournland is predictable. There may be many places in the Mournland where healing magic is impeded, but it’s not an absolute rule across the entirety of it. This was always how *I* ran the Mournland, and I’m glad to provide the DM with the flexibility to decide on the limitations at play in a particular adventure.
  • Lady Illmarrow. Chapter 6 includes a stat block for Lady Illmarrow, an infamous lich known to lurk in a frozen castle on the edge of the Lhazaar Principalities. Lady Illmarrow has a secret, which I’ll leave unspoiled here. But as she’s an interesting and powerful character who should be known in the world, I wanted to establish her secret identity—an identity that COULD be tied to well-known stories and rumors.
  • Monsters. There’s been a number of little changes to monsters and monstrous lore. To cover these quickly: Doppelgangers are now said to be derived from changelings, rather than the other way around; they are changelings that have been twisted by the daelkyr Dyrrn the Corruptor. Quori are considered to be aberrations. Karrnathi undead are now a single type of undead as opposed to being split between skeletons and zombies—though, of course, the Karrns used many sorts of undead in the war! Another big change is the introduction of Valenar Beasts—the idea that it’s not just Valenar horses that are special, along with an explanation for why these creatures can’t be bred in captivity.
  • Guns. I’m kidding; Eberron’s approach to guns hasn’t changed at all. Some people were worried due to various images that firearms had become a standard part of Eberron; this isn’t the case. The Artillerist artificer specializes in creating ARCANE artillery, and by default the Arcane Firearm of an artificer is a modified rod, staff, or wand. There’s a place for everything in Eberron, and if you use the firearm rules in the DM’s Guide artificers should be proficient in their use. There’s also nothing stopping you from describing YOUR artificer as using a unique firearm they’ve created; but Eberron still focuses on wandslingers, not gunslingers.

What’s New?

Set aside the things that have changed, what does Rising add that you haven’t seen before? Here’s a few things to look forward to…

  • The Artificer. This isn’t new to Eberron, but it’s the first new fully developed character class for Fifth Edition! One of the interesting things about the artificer is that subclass dramatically shapes the role of the character; an alchemist is quite different from an artillerist (and you can expect to see a few new options for artificers in Exploring Eberron…)
  • Group Patrons. One of my favorite additions to Rising From The Last War is the introduction of Group Patrons, essentially backgrounds that can be shared by an entire group. This is an excellent way to establish a basic theme for a campaign. Are you spies? Soldiers? Intrepid reporters for the Korranberg Chronicle?
  • Warforged Colossus. In exploring the Last War, we decide to look at a few new weapons of war. In the last days of the war, Cyre needed something big to match Breland’s floating fortresses; and so Cannith produced the warforged colossi, gargantuan living constructs. All known colossi were lost during the Mourning, but they must still be there in the Mournland, waiting to be found. A colossus can be a bizarre dungeon… and if the Lord of Blades can reactivate one, it would be a terrifying threat.
  • Scary Monsters. Rising provides details on a few of the most terrifying threats in Eberron—the daelkyr and the overlords. It gives statistics and details overviews of two of each of these. The daelkyr Belashyrra is the Lord of Eyes and the master of the beholders, while Dyrrn the Corruptor can make anything into a monster. Rak Tulkhesh is the overlord known as the Rage of War, and the Last War has given him strength. Sul Khatesh is the Keeper of Secrets and the Queen of Shadows, and can be an excellent patron for warlocks as well as a nefarious foe.

I’m going to stop here, but I’ll be writing more about all of these things in the days ahead, and I am of course working on Exploring Eberron, a new book for the DM’s Guild! If you’ve got Rising From The Last War, let me know what you think of it.

Short Take: Gith in Eberron

Thousands of years ago, a proud empire ruled the known world. This golden age was shattered when portals opened to Xoriat. Hordes of aberrations poured through the gates, and behind them came the daelkyr. The Lords of Madness twisted the land and its creatures, capturing the champions of the Empire and turning them into horrors.

It’s a familiar story, but there’s a twist. This isn’t the Empire of Dhakaan—and it isn’t Eberron. The people of this empire were gifted psychics, and their cities were made from crysteel and solidified emotion. They fought the daelkyr with sword and thought, the great leader Gith rallying her forces against the corrupting influence of Xoriat. But there was no victory to be won. There were no Gatekeepers in this world, no knowledge of the primal power that saved Eberron. This land was doomed. Retreat was the only option, and so Gith rallied the wisest of her kind and found a way to open portals into the realms beyond reality. The only remnant of these proud people were the heroes twisted by the Dyrrn the Corruptor, psychic champions transformed into living weapons: the Mind Flayers.

The refugees fell into the realm of Kythri, and the Churning Chaos hid them from pursuit. The greatest monks of the people—now calling themselves the Gith, after their savior—carved out a pocket of stability with their minds. They regained their strength and evaluated the situation, and here a bitter division split their people. Zerthimon the Wise maintained that the Gith should remain within Kythri, strengthening their will through the endless struggle against chaos. He believed that mental discipline was the ultimate key to victory—that in time, the Gith could impose their will on Xoriat itself, taking the daelkyr’s home just as the Lords of Madness had stolen theirs. But Gith was a warrior, and her followers yearned for battle. They knew they weren’t strong enough to face the daelkyr, but they built their fortresses in the space between spaces and began raiding different layers of reality: pillaging floating towers in Syrania and slaughtering devils on the plains of Shavarath. One day they would find a way to utterly destroy Xoriat; until then, they would hone their skills in conflicts across the planes.

Eberron wasn’t the first world visited by the daelkyr. It’s been said that the daelkyr view the destruction of worlds as a form of art; it’s an art they’ve practiced since the dawn of time. The illithids are both a relic of this conflict and a promise of what might lie ahead. Should the daelkyr rise and complete their work, there could come a time when the dolgaunts and dolgrims are all that remains of Eberron. And what of the Gith? They’re carved out a new existence beyond what we know of as reality. They’re planar hermits and plunderers, pondering mysteries we cannot imagine and gathering treasures and weapons from across the planes. Generally Gith are encountered as individuals, explorers, philosophers, or agents with a mission. But there could come a time when the Githyanki arrive in force. Will they come to destroy the daelkyr? Or will they come as conquerors?


But What About…

I remember being intrigued by the Githyanki on the cover of the Fiend Folio when I first saw it as a teenager. I was intrigued by the idea of this deeply alien society—of a civilization that had abandoned the material world and carved out a place in the planes. There’s a place for everything in Eberron, and it was obvious the Gith would be somewhere. I had thoughts on the matter, but I wasn’t the one who wrote the Gith entry in the Player’s Guide to Eberron. The PGtE suggests that the Gith were created from human or hobgoblin stock during the daelkyr invasion of Eberron, and that they escaped when the Gatekeepers bound the daelkyr. There’s a number of things I don’t like about this explanation. Essentially, it downgrades the Gith to being discarded dolgrims—which is also strange because for creatures “created by the mind flayers from hobgoblin stock” they’re not aberrations and are far less disturbing than the dolgaunts and dolgrims. More than that, I want the Gith to be the heroes of their own story—not playing second fiddle to the Gatekeepers. They may have failed to save their world, but at least they fought to the bitter end.

The other thing I like about this story is that it adds depth to the daelkyr themselves. It establishes that they’ve done this before and that if not for the Gatekeepers, Eberron would share the fate of the forgotten world of the Gith. It also provides a different approach to the enmity between the mind flayers and the Gith. It’s not simply that the illithids were slavemasters. It’s that the illithid were Gith—and remain now as the twisted reminder of the destruction of their world. And it’s not that the Gith have psychic powers because they were altered by mind flayers; it’s that the mind flayers have psionic power because they were created from the naturally psychic Gith. Given that time and space have no absolute rules in Xoriat and there’s no law about the lifespan of a mind flayer, it also leaves the possibility that some of the mind flayers on Eberron were part of that ancient war—that the mysterious grudge Xor’chyllic has against the daelkyr could tie back to its history with the Gith.

In the meantime, the Gith themselves offer hooks for planar adventures. A Githzerai player character may have come to Eberron in pursuit of a particular idea, while a Githyanki could be searching for a more practical weapon; either could be here to gather information on the daelkyr and their cults. A player Gith could be an explorer or a renegade, perhaps caryying a warning of an upcoming Githyanki incursion. Adventurers in Kythri could find shelter in a Githzerai monastery, while a Githyanki vessel could carry adventurers from plane to plane.

And what of the lost world of the Gith? What does it mean that there is a lost world? How many more are there? One possibility is that Eberron has a solar system, or that the Gith world is one of the moons. However, Xoriat defies our concepts of time and space, and I’d personally play it that from Xoriat you can enter any number of alternate versions of Eberron, the ruined Gith world is one; but what other alternate Eberrons could you reach through Xoriat?

I’m currently working on Exploring Eberron, a product for the DM’s Guild which will delve more deeply into the planes and their relationship to Eberron, along with many other subjects. I may have some previews to share soon. Thanks as always to my Patreon backers! I’ll be posting more articles once I get done with Exploring Eberron. You can also find be at Pax Unplugged, and if you’re in Portland, Oregon I’ll be doing an Eberron signing and Q&A at Guardian Games on November 23rd!

What I’m Up To: Level Eater, GAME, Exploring Eberron!

The last few months have been extremely busy, between working on Eberron: Rising From The Last War, my own book Exploring Eberron, and developing an Adventure Zone game with my company Twogether Studios. Which is why I haven’t been posting much here. Well, it’s just getting busier! I have a number of events coming up that I wanted to let you all know about.

Exploring Eberron

Eberron: Rising From The Last War will be released in November. I’m currently working on Exploring Eberron, a book that delves into aspects and elements of Eberron that I’ve never had the opportunity to explore in previous sourcebooks. One of these is the aquatic civilizations of Eberron; the image above shows a sahuagin city in the Thunder Sea, built around one of the more unusual features of the area. In addition to the oceans, Exploring Eberron will venture into the planes, explore unusual cultures and cults, and much more! If all goes according to plan, Exploring Eberron will be available in the DM’s Guild (and print on demand) by the end of the year.

Level Eater Portland

Level Eater is an amazing D&D event raising money for the charity MyMusicRX. Designed by Will Hindmarch, it unites multiple tables of adventurers in a quest to save the city of Greenmoss. While each table is playing the same adventure, they have the choice of a host of quests—and the choices each table make shape the ultimate outcome. I’ll be running a table, along with other amazing DMs, including Kate Welch, Christopher Perkins, and Jennifer Ketchmer! The seats at my table are already sold out, but if you’re in Portland, it’s going to be an amazing event.  You can find more information or sign up here!

G.A.M.E.

In two weeks, I’m returning to Springfield, Missouri for the Gaming Arts Media and Entertainment Expo! I’ll be there with Jenn Ellis, my partner in Twogether Studios, and I’ll be running an Eberron session and playtesting the Adventure Zone game. Other guests include Satine Phoenix, who will be running a number of D&D sessions to raise money for charity. I really enjoyed G.A.M.E. the last time I was there, and if you’re in the area I look forward to seeing you!

If you’re not in Portland or Springfield, Twogether Studios will be at Spiel in Essen, though I won’t personally be there; I will be at PAX unpluggedThat’s all for now,  stay tuned for more glimpses into Exploring Eberron!

Lightning Round: Dragons, Tarkanan, and More!

Hi Everyone!

The last two months have been a whirlwind of travel and deadlines, and that’s kept me largely off the internet. In addition to traveling to GenCon, DragonCon, and XOXO, I’ve been working on Exploring Eberron—The Book Formerly Known As Project Raptor—and also on the game Twogether Studios is developing with the Adventure Zone. I’m also preparing to DM at Level Eater in Portland and G.A.M.E in Springfield!

In my next post I’ll talk more about all of these things, and about Eberron: Rising From The Last War, the Eberron hardcover that is  coming out in November. Today, I want to quickly answer a few questions from my Patreon supporters!

If Aberrant Marks can’t be passed on like normal Dragonmarks, what is life typically like for the children of House Tarkanan?

For those unfamiliar with aberrant dragonmarks or House Tarkanan, this article might be a useful crash course on some of the issues associated with them.

As for this question: remember that “House Tarkanan” is nothing like a Dragonmarked House. It’s a name this organization took in mockery of the Dragonmarked Houses, sort of like a gang calling themselves “The Kings of Callestan.” Just because they call themselves “Kings” doesn’t mean they actually have any sort of sovereign power! The Dragonmarked Houses are multinational guilds formed many centuries ago through the alliances of powerful families. They are dynasties as well as businesses with a presence in multiple nations and on multiple continents. By contrast, House Tarkanan was started less than a decade ago by the survivors of a disavowed Brelish commando unit. It has expanded its operations since then, but it is still a small organization and still fundamentally a criminal organization, NOT a dynasty. You aren’t born into House Tarkanan and you don’t need to marry into it; you’re simply recruited into it. Members often use the last name Tarkanan, but that’s an affectation. The leader of the gang often calls herself Thora Tarkanan, but her actual name is Thora Tavin.

So the main point is that there are no “children of House Tarkanan.” The organization thrives by recruiting new members, not by breeding them. If you’re a Tarkanan enforcer, you could marry a Morgrave librarian and have five kids; marked or unmarked, your spouse and children aren’t considered members of House Tarkanan unless they are recruited into it.

With that said, the issue behind the question is the idea that aberrant dragonmarks aren’t hereditary. And on that point, I’m going to change MY stance slightly. We’ve always said that the most reliable way to produce an aberrant dragonmark is to cross the bloodlines of two different houses—that this is more likely to produce an aberrant mark than a person with an aberrant mark having a child. And I stand by that, in general, with one exception: I think it’s fair to say that if both parents have aberrant dragonmarks, the odds of producing an aberrant child are the same as if you mixed two house bloodlines… that two aberrants ALSO produce a “mixed mark.” Since the War of the Mark, aberrant marks have been so rare that this has rarely been an issue. But now aberrant marks are starting to appear in greater numbers, and forces like House Tarkanan are concentrating them. So this is a factor that COULD lead to House Tarkanan producing more aberrant heirs.

But the critical question is… does it want to? 

Even if you have a more reliable way to produce an aberrant mark, one of the defining factors of aberrant marks is that they are unpredictable: even if two aberrant parents produce a child with an aberrant mark, most likely that mark will have NOTHING IN COMMON with the marks of the parents. The semi-canon example we have of this is in the novel The Son of Khyber. Tarkanan lieutenant Filleon is the son of Ghallanda-Jorasco parents and has a mark that gives him a lethal touch. His daughter Zae has a mark that lets her communicate with and control vermin… nothing to do with his mark, or Jorasco, or Ghallanda. The second key element is that fact that most aberrant marks have serious physical or mental side effects. In Son of Khyber, Filleon has a withered arm that’s a result of his mark, and accidentally killed his mother when his mark manifested. While Zae can communicate with rats, it appears that she can’t actually speak; Filleon himself says that her mark is a mental burden and that he feels pity for her. Essentially, if you’re a Cannith heir with the Mark of Making, there’s no reason not to pass that on to a child. If you’re an aberrant, you have no idea if your child will develop a mark they come to see as a curse, and you also know they’ll be ostracized and persecuted.

With player characters we tend to downplay the negative side effects of aberrant marks and leave it primarily up to the player to roleplay them. But the intent is that aberrant marks are difficult and dangerous. If we look to the X-Men as a comparison, consider Cyclops—the idea that if he loses his glasses, people may die. Or Rogue, unable to touch someone without draining their life force and memories. House Tarkanan wants to protect people with aberrant marks, and to train them to use their powers. But it’s a valid question if they’d actually want to dramatically increase the number of people with aberrant marks, given how often those marks can be a burden to the people who carry them.

Do aberrant marks follow the rules of if they are removed they will manifest again elsewhere on the body? Would they manifest with the same drawback? I know the novel dwarf has essentially regeneration backlash.

Aberrant marks are dragonmarks. As such, yes, if removed they will manifest elsewhere on the body. Essentially, the power doesn’t actually come FROM the physical mark; rather, the mark is a manifestation of the power. Cut the mark off, the power remains, and eventually the mark reappears. Whether the drawback remains the same depends on the drawback. In the case of the ratspeaker Zae, the idea is that her POWER is what drives her a little crazy; she hears whispering rats in her head all the time. As long as she has that power, it will be a burden. On the other hand, if Filleon cut off his withered arm, maybe that would be that… or maybe the power of the mark would cause ANOTHER one of his limbs to wither. There’s no absolute rules, and I don’t see that as something Filleon would be inclined to put to the test.

The dwarf Brom is an unusual character who would be difficult to create as a PC—an example of a greater or Khyber-level mark. He has essentially, a dramatic form of regeneration blended with reincarnation; when he’s injured, the cells regenerate, but typically as cells of a random humanoid. And certainly, if his mark was removed, it would return.

My general understanding is that the Aurum represents an ascendant merchant class that chafes at both Nations’ and the Houses’ powers – Something which puts them at least somewhat into alignment with Tarkanan. How do you think they would align and how would they conflict?

In many ways the Aurum and House Tarkanan are opposites. The Aurum is a collection of wealthy, privileged people who want even more wealth and power. By contrast, House Tarkanan was founded by betrayed soldiers, and represents an alliance of people scorned and feared by all, people who have endured poverty and hardship. Tarkanan is a very SMALL organization – per WGtE, a “small, elite force” and only just starting to establish itself beyond Sharn – while the Aurum is spread across Khorvaire. Members of House Tarkanan are united both by their marks and the persecution they’ve endured; they feel a sense of kinship and they generally do seek to help others with aberrant marks. Meanwhile, the Aurum is largely an alliance of convenience; they aren’t driven to help other wealthy people in need.

I could see two basic points. One would be straightforward. Tarkanan is a group of mercenary criminals. The Aurum are people with money who need mercenaries to do their dirty work. It is thus entirely reasonable for an Aurum mastermind to hire House Tarkanan to assist in an operation targeting a house,  and Tarkanan would be happy to take the job. The other possibility would be for a member of the Shadow Cabinet, such as Antus Soldorak, to recognize Tarkanan as a useful tool in their goal of destabilizing houses; with this in mind, they would offer Tarkanan gold and resources, while suggesting targets. Tarkanan is a small organization and would likely be happy to have that wealthy patron. I wouldn’t make the alliance any more direct than that. Thora would likely know very little about the patron, likely not even their name; part of the point would be that the Aurum could USE Tarkanan—known to have a grudge with the houses—as a catspaw to undertake missions they don’t want traced back to them.

If a dragonmarked heir became a warlord of Droaam somehow, would anyone call them out for violating the Korth Edicts?

Galifar I established the Korth Edicts, which forbid dragonmarked heirs from holding land, noble title, or maintaining military forces. In the wake of the Last War, it’s very unclear who could actually enforce the Korth Edicts. MOST people abide by them, because they carry the weight of centuries of tradition. But there’s a number of active examples where houses are violating the Edicts and nothing is being done. Essentially, sure, someone COULD call them out… and then what? Unless that person has powerful friends who take such an interest that they are willing to try to lean on the heir’s Baron to address the situation, odds are good it would be one more case where the Edicts are been violated and nothing is being done.

With that said, it’s also a weird issue because Droaam isn’t recognized as a sovereign nation. As such, being a warlord of Droaam likely wouldn’t be recognized as a “noble title” under the terms of the Edicts.

In an episode of Manifest Zone you (I think!) mentioned that the giants of Xen’drik were more like titans rather than the several sub-races that exist now. Could you expand on that at all? If the giants were like titans did the dragons curse the race when they destroyed their empire, deliberately fragmenting the race so they could not rise to dominance again?

That’s correct. This is covered in the 3.5 sourcebooks Secrets of Xen’drik and City of Stormreach. This is from City of Stormreach. 

In dealing with the giants of Xen’drik, it’s important to bear in mind that the giants have not always been such a divergent species. Many scholars claim that all modern giants—stone and hill, fire and frost—share a common biological ancestor, beyond the mythical titans. Some adventurers speak of encounters with primordial giants or eldritch giants, and this could be the answer to these stories. In any case, evidence exists that a few of the giant subspecies—such as the fire giants of the Sul’at League—existed prior to the great cataclysm. But others, most notably the hill giants, are said to be the result of curses unleashed in that war… powers unleashed by the dragons to prevent any giant nation from rising to its prior heights.

Titans were founders and leaders of many of the giant nations, while the “common” giants were more in the mode of storm giants or eldritch giants. The dragons unleashed epic curses—the Traveler’s Curse, the Durashka Tul, and more—and the modern giants are a reflection of these curses.

Are the half-giants a result of magebreeding or some sort of result of the curses like the hill giants? Are they actually “half” anything or are they simply the smallest giants?

The canon answer is given in the Player’s Guide to Eberron:

In the distant past, giant explorers from Xen’drik visited southern Sarlona. Their descendants are the half-giants described in the Expanded Psionics Handbook. It is unclear whether half-giants actually have human ancestry or are simply degenerate descendants of the titans of Xen’drik (as most giant kinds are believed to be).

This is echoed in Secrets of Sarlona…

Perhaps the most baffling of all the races on the continent, the nomadic half-giants of Sarlona are descendants of ancient giant explorers from Xen’drik. Some say the half-giants are degenerate offspring of the Xen’drik titans, while others contend they have a mixed human ancestry.

Are ogres and trolls actually related to the giants in the ways they are in other settings, or are they simply parallel creatures with similar traits (size, strength, ferocity) but different origins?

In my opinion, ogres and trolls are entirely unrelated to giants, which is one reason we suggests that the ogres and trolls of Khorvaire should speak Goblin instead of Giant. Trolls are likely part of the same biological path as orcs; ogres developed on Sarlona.

I am using Sarmondelaryx as a Patron for one of my players, in my campaign she has been sealed by Harryn Stormblade a couple of centuries prior to the start of our campaign. What kind of goals would you think she would be aspiring to for when she manages to get released? 

Sarmondelaryx is a character referenced in the Thorn of Breland novel series. She is a rogue red dragon possessing a set of powerful dragonshard artifacts; these help her avoid detection (and thus the Eyes of Chronepsis) and to bind souls, which has the effect of extending her life. She is infamous for having killed the first Prince Thrane and devastating the nation in the early days of Galifar.

So: Sarmondelaryx is a powerful, virtually immortal dragon with enemies in both Argonnessen and Ashtakala. She has consumed demons and slain dragons, and personally I would double down on her desire to make both sides suffer—to be a wild card in the ancient war between the Conclave and the Lords of Dust. I’d see her trying to stir up conflicts between the Lords of Dust and the Chamber, setting situations where they end up fighting each other while Sarmondelaryx (or her agent) escapes with whatever prize they were seeking. What does she want? She always wants to increase her own power… but as much as anything, I think she enjoys the game of outsmarting both of the superpowers, making her enemies suffer and proving her superiority.

The church of the silver Flame seems to have a lot of variance in its presentation by author. Structurally, it consistently has the big three orders of ministers/Templars/friars. Are other orders subsidiaries of those? Same organizational level but smaller and less prominent?

Certainly. The templars, ministers, and friars are the core roles of the church. The templar defends; the minister guides a particular community; and the friar remains in motion, bringing the light of the Flame to dark places. But within those three broad categories there are many orders and sects, many with narrower missions. For example, the Argentum is technically tied to the Templars, but it is tasked with seeking out dangerous magical relics. Some of these lesser orders are also specific to particular nations; the Argentum is a Thrane order.

That’s all for now—stay tuned for more on Exploring Eberron!

DragonCon, Eberron, and Project Raptor

It’s been a long month! Earlier in August, Wizards of the Coast announced Eberron: Rising From The Last War. I can confirm that I’ve been working on this book throughout the year, and I’m excited to see it coming to fruition. In addition, I’m continuing to work on my own Eberron book for the DM’s Guild, Project: Raptor; you can see the first rough draft of an important image above. Of course, “Project: Raptor” is just a code name, tied to an old joke about someone expecting the sourcebook to be 300 pages of dinosaurs. I’m going to reveal the ACTUAL title this Friday at my Eberron panel at DragonCon.

What’s that? That’s right! This weekend I’ll be at DragonCon in Atlanta, and I’m on a lot of panels! Here’s the list:

THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY
Time: Fri 10:00 am Location: Augusta 1-2 – Westin
Description: Find out about all of the goings-on in the pulp game industry. We discuss what has happened in the role-playing, board game, & miniatures markets. We also talk about the mainstreaming of tabletop games to a new precedent that we’ve never seen! Finally, we talk about all of the latest trends!
Panelists: Eloy Lasanta, Jason Bulmahn, Keith Baker, Jenn Ellis

EBERRON IN FIFTH EDITION!
Time: Fri 01:00 pm Location: Augusta 3 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: I’ll be talking about the latest developments for Eberron, including Rising From The Last War and Project: Raptor! I expect to be showing off a lot of art for Raptor, as well as announcing the name of the book!
Panelists: Keith Baker

THE BEST GAME MASTERS IN THE WORLD
Time: Fri 04:00 pm Location: Centennial I – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: Our professional game masters come out to talk about all of their secrets–everything from the basics at the game table to their more advanced techniques.
Panelists: Jason Massey, Eloy Lasanta, Keith Baker, Devon M Chulick

THE MOST DASTARDLY VILLAINS OF ALL TIME
Time: Sat 10:00 am Location: Augusta 1-2 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: A Year of the Bard-themed panel! We will discuss crafting memorable & exquisite villains for your campaigns. Are villains truly evil or just misunderstood? We also talk about role-playing as the villain.
Panelists: Jason Bulmahn, Keith Baker, Kenneth Hite

BEST DUNGEON EVER
Time: Sat 01:00 pm Location: Centennial I – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: Year after year, this is one of our most popular panels! Our designers talk about constructing the trickiest, most interesting, & most memorable dungeons ever!
Panelists: Jason Bulmahn, Keith Baker

MONSTER CREATION LAB 
Time: Sat 02:30 pm Location: Augusta 1-2 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: In this panel, we talk to some of our award-winning designers about designing great threats for your table top. What makes a great monster? How do you make a creature that take on a whole party? How do you make unique & interesting threats that fascinate players?
Panelists: Jason Bulmahn, Keith Baker

ULTIMATE ROLEPLAYING
Time: Sat 04:00 pm Location: International South – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: This is it! Our ultimate Year of the Bard panel! Here, we talk about all things role-playing, from creating characters, crafting motivations, to using mannerisms & doing voices….we talk about it all! Don’t miss the panel that you demanded!
Panelists: Jeff Burns, Keith Baker

TWOGETHER STUDIOS
Time: Sun 04:00 pm Location: Augusta 3 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: Over the last few years, Twogether Studios has created the RPG Phoenix: Dawn Command, along with the card games Illimat and Action Cats. Join Keith Baker and Jenn Ellis as they discuss their plans for the future and reveal details about their upcoming Adventure Zone game!
Panelists: Keith Baker, Jenn Ellis

If you’re going to be at DragonCon, I hope you’ll be able to attend one or more of these panels. Beyond that, if you see me at the con, I’m almost (ALMOST) always happy to talk about Eberron, Phoenix: Dawn Command, Illimat, or anything else I’ve created!

That’s it: I hope to see you there!

Things I’m Backing!

I’ve been under a rock for the past few months, between preparing for GenCon and working on the Adventure Zone gameProject Raptor, and a few other things I can’t talk about, but I wanted to take a moment to point you to OTHER projects I’m interested in. There’s a lot of great projects out there and I’m only writing about things I’ve personally backed; if you know about other projects that are worth a look, post them in the comments!

Destination Fantastic

In 2009, I traveled around the world playing D&D with a wide assortment of interesting people. It was during this journey that I first met Satine Phoenix. Now, Satine has teamed up with Dwarven Forge founder Stefan Porkorny to create Destination Fantastic, a travel show that explores the roots of fantasy and searches for sources of inspiration. The first episode explores Iceland, which is filled with remarkable locations. As of this writing there’s only 50 hours left in the campaign and they’ve got a long ways to go, but there’s still time to back this fantastic journey.

Demigods

I’ve always loved mythology and folklore: when other children were playing cops and robbers, I was playing Aesir vs Vanir. So backing Demigods was an easy decision for me. Jason Mills has used the foundation of the Powered By The Apocalypse engine to create this RPG driven by the actions of semi-mortal descendants of gods in the modern world. If you’d like to know more, you can find the quickstart rules here. But don’t delay: as of his posting, Demigods has less than 24 hours in its campaign! It’s over 400% funded and will definitely happen, but if you want to jump onboard, back it here!

Fiasco

I’ve been a fan of Fiasco ever since its original release. It’s a collaborative storytelling game where you work together with other players to tell stories about plans that go horribly wrong. If you’re curious to get a taste of what it sounds like in action, check out the Gosh Darn Fiasco podcast—go back far enough, and you’ll find an episode I participated in! I love the flexibility of Fiasco and how it encourages players to build a story together… and to embrace the idea that not all stories have to end well.

This new edition of Fiasco abandons playlists and dice in favor of cards. I’ve been experimenting with this myself with my own Fiasco sets, and I think it’s an excellent way to make the game a little more accessible. I haven’t played this new version yet, but I have no hesitations about jumping on board the campaign. There’s still a lot of time left (and it’s already funded by more than 700%!) but if you want to get on board now, you can back Fiasco here!

Magical Kitties Save The Day!

Let me breaking this down for you. This is an all-ages roleplaying game that can be played by anyone six and up, and it involves MAGICAL KITTIES SAVING THE DAY. As a fan of both Atlas Games, storytelling, and cats (as shown by my own game Action Cats) it would be churlish of me to ignore this. If you know kids who love cats and adventures, you can back this here.

That’s what I’m backing at the moment, but if you know of other projects I should take a look at, post them in the comments below!

Yuan-Ti 2: How would *I* use them?

I’m getting ready for GenCon and working on Project Raptor and other things. But the other day I posted an article in response to a question from a Patreon supportersWhat’s the role of the yuan-ti in Eberron? In this article, I focused on the CANON role of the yuan-ti in the setting… yuan-ti civilization began in Sarlona; they were driven first to Argonnessen and then to Xen’drik, where they scheme and hunger for revenge. Which is fine. But I’ve never actually used any of that in a campaign I’ve run. In writing the article and addressing follow-up questions, I started thinking about how I would actually use them… and I thought I’d share that here.

It’s proverbial that If it exists in D&D, there’s a place for it in Eberron. But as I’ve said before, this was never meant to mean that everything in D&D IS in Eberron; it’s that it COULD be, if you want it to be a part of your campaign. I’ve always preferred to focus on fewer elements but to add more depth to them. I’ve never used the yuan-ti in a campaign because I’ve never had a need for them, when I’ve had the daelkyr, the Dreaming Dark, the Gatekeepers, the Dhakaani. But in adding anything, the question to me is what it brings—what’s unique about it. For me, the things that are compelling about the yuan-ti are…

  • Their variable phenotypes: from the purebloods who can blend in among humanity to the inhuman abominations and anathema.
  • The idea that they were once human but were corrupted by their dark devotions.
  • The principle that as a group they are up to no good… something that is rare in Eberron, where evil generally isn’t genetic. The yuan-ti are sly schemers, hungry for power and dominion over others.
  • The question of their connection to the shulassakar… who I”ll note I originally created as an alternative to the yuan-ti, a way to use the mechanics of the yuan-ti in a COMPLETELY different way than in other settings.

Now, one option is to try to take the rest of the traditional yuan-ti backstory—the fallen empire of slavers—and to fit that into the setting, and that’s essentially what the canon approach does; creating a yuan-ti nation in Sarlona that was overthrown during the Sundering. However, if I were to use them in my campaign, I wouldn’t do this. I don’t NEED another ancient kingdom, and my players have no reason to care about some nation that fell a thousand years ago on another continent. So I’d rather find a way to add the yuan-ti that makes them integral to the story that I’m telling.

So, if *I* were to use the yuan-ti, I’d turn it around and make their evolution from human to yuan-ti something that’s happening RIGHT NOW—not something that happened a thousand years ago. Q’barra is the prison of the Overlord Masvirik, also known as the Cold Sun: an archfiend embodying the divide between mammal and reptile, lord of scale and venom. Since the Age of Demons, Q’barra has seen conflict between the lizardfolk of the Cold Sun Federation and the corrupted forces of the Poison Dusk. A region of untamed jungle, Q’barra had long been ignored by the people of Galifar… until the Last War, when Ven ir’Kesslan led a flotilla of settlers east. These settlers soon discovered rich deposits of Eberron dragonshards in Q’barra, and this brought a new wave of opportunists and fortune seekers. Today, New Galifar seeks to maintain the values of the fallen kingdom, while Hope is a wild frontier.

In running a Q’barra campaign, one of the primary themes is the interaction between the settlers and the lizardfolk, tied to the idea that the settlers don’t understand the ancient dangers that linger in this land. But what if there are humans who do understand… warlocks and sages who seek to claim Masvirik’s power as their own? What if there is a conspiracy spread across the land, with agents among the nobles of New Galifar and the shard barons of Hope? What if they’re using their influence to stir up conflict between the humans and the scales… in the process destroying wards and allowing them to seize artifacts and dragonshards tied to Masvirik? And, of course, what if in doing this—in seeking to harness the power of the Cold Sun—these people are becoming something less than human?

In part, this could seem like any cult of the Dragon Below. Here’s the things I’ll call out to separate it.

  • It’s always been a theme of the yuan-ti that they aren’t devoted to their gods; they want their power. I’d highlight that here. The Poison Dusk are fanatically devoted to Masvirik. The yuan-ti have absolutely no love for the Cold Sun: they are opportunists who want to steal his power.
  • Q’barra includes dusk shards: dragonshards imbued with the power of Masvirik. The yuan-ti would be amassing these shards and using this dark power—to create eldritch machines, to create magic items, or as focus items. Some might grind up the shards and drink them. Acquiring dusk shards would be a common, basic goal of the yuan-ti… and something that would place them at odds with the Cold Sun Federation.
  • Rather than priests, I’d likely focus on these yuan-ti as sorcerers and warlocks; they are stealing the power rather than having it granted to them. A yuan-ti warlock could be tricking Masvirik into granting power, but more likely the Cold Sun isn’t an ACTIVE patron; rather, the warlock has just found a way to tap into its power. For NPCs, the point would be that these abilities are sustained and enhanced by dusk shards.
  • The mutation is caused by long term exposure to dusk shards and dramatically enhanced by channeling Masvirik’s power, and it’s something that’s happening right now. These yuan-ti have only been active for a few decades, and they’re still learning about their true nature. The abominations were born human and were once important members of their community; other members of their families have to hide the abominations, and cover for their inability to conduct business face to face. At this moment in time, there may not BE any anathema; one or more abominations will BECOME anathema over the course of the campaign.

Among other things, this allows a recurring NPC to mutate over the course of the story. The PCs deal with a villain; when they finally capture him, they discover that he’s a pureblood with serpentine characteristics. He escapes, causes more trouble, and eventually appears to be killed… only to return later as a malison or anathema, explaining how the Cold Sun revived him, and changed him in the process. Essentially, I don’t just want them to be snake people; I want to highlight that they are BECOMING snake people because of what they’re doing. I also wouldn’t limit them to humanity; there will be dwarves, elves, and orcs who are becoming yuan-ti.

What I like about this is that it makes the yuan-ti an unpredictable wild card. The Poison Dusk serve Masvirik. The Cold Sun Federation opposes him. They’ve been fighting this war for thousands of years. But the yuan-ti are new and are here for POWER. They are tied into the power structures of the settlers, and have allies at all levels of society.

Meanwhile, the shulassakar have been servants of the Silver Flame for thousands of years, transformed by their tie to the couatl. Shulassakar agents may show up mid-arc, sensing the disruption being caused by the actions of yuan-ti and Poison Dusk alike… just in time to confuse the PCs, who by now will have learned to distrust serpentine humans. Will they sort it out?

So, that’s what I would do with the yuan-ti. If you’ve done something else with them in your campaign, post it in the comments!

Yuan-ti have a strong connection to psionics, and in 3.5 they have natural psionic powers. However, in Eberron they have a strong arcane or even divine influence by being connected to the overlords. What would be the most common yuan-ti spellcaster? A psionic, a mage a priest or another one?

I don’t feel a need to add psionics to 5E yuan-ti just because they had them in 3.5. As noted above, I would focus on sorcerers and warlocks. The sorcerer would channel powers largely through supernatural mutation, while the warlock would be using arcane knowledge to essentially steal power from Masvirik.

Traditionally physical mutation is more associated with the daelkyr than with the Overlords. Are there other examples of Overlords causing physical mutations? How would you distinguish it from the daelkyr? 

It’s always been called out that agents of the Poison Dusk may be physically corrupted; 4E suggested that the Blackscale Lizardfolk weren’t actually a separate species, but were simply mutated champions of Masvirik. Beyond this, another Overlord noted for physical corruption is Katashka the Gatekeeper, who transforms followers (and others) into undead. The main question is whether the Overlord’s domain has an obvious physical aspect. Masvirik is associated with reptiles, and it’s reasonable that mammals who channel his power could develop reptilian traits. While Sul Khatesh embodies dangerous and arcane knowledge, and the manifestation of her corruption is that knowledge.

One way I’d highlight the difference between such Overlord corruption and the work of the daelkyr is that the corruption isn’t directed. Goblins didn’t spontaneously become dolgrims; Dyrrn took goblin prisoners and MADE dolgrims from them. By contrast, it’s not that Masvirik is intentionally turning these people into yuan-ti, and it’s not something they have control over; it’s a consequence of channeling his power.

This isn’t ENTIRELY dissimilar from some daelkyr; we’ve called out that followers of Belashyrra may start growing new eyes. However, that corruption doesn’t go very far; we’ve never suggested that they become beholders, for example. The key point I’d call out here is that the yuan-ti aren’t cultists, and the transformation isn’t a gift; it’s a consequence of their hunger for power.

Sidebar: The Yuan-Ti

As we lead up to GenCon, there’s a lot going on.

  • Here’s my GenCon Plans. If you’re going to be there, drop by the Twogether Studios Booth or come to my Eberron talk!
  • I’ve just announced “Project Raptor“, a new sourcebook I’ll be releasing on the DM’s Guild later this year.
  • There’s a new episode of Manifest Zone talking about it!

However, until GenCon I’m working through the big pile of questions submitted by my Patreon supporters. One asks “Could you expand on the yuan-ti in Eberron?” So, let’s talk about the serpentfolk.

Yuan-Ti in Eberron

The origin of the yuan-ti is shrouded in mystery. Here are the absolute facts.

  • The yuan-ti first appeared on the continent of Sarlona, in the early stages of the Sundering—the conflict that paved the way for the rise of Riedra and the Inspired. When the human nation of Khunan was devastated by a mystic conflict, the yuan-ti rose up in the ruins and established a new nation, which they called Syrkarn.
  • The early Inspired set their allied forces to the task of erradicating the yuan-ti. However, even in victory, the Inspired order all humans in Syrkarn and the surrounding regions to abandon the land. The Inspired have shunned the region ever since. A handful of yuan-ti survived and remain hidden within the ruins.
  • When they were persecuted by the Inspired, a number of yuan-ti fled Sarlona and sought refuge on Argonnessen. At first they were granted sanctuary, and the best of them were welcomed into the city of Io’vakas, a haven where humanoids lived in harmony with the dragons. However, some of the yuan-ti sought forbidden power, mastering dangerous arcane secrets; the dragons responded by leveling Io’vakas and exterminating the yuan-ti. A handful remain, but they continue to be eliminated when they are found.
  • A few yuan-ti escaped persecution in Xen’drik—perhaps with the help of sympathetic dragons—and reached Xen’drik. Now they lurk in the shadows of Stormreach and beyond, plotting vengeance against both humanity and the dragons.

These are the facts: they began in Sarlona, fled to Argonnessen, and fled once more to Xen’drik. But there are crucial questions. Where did they come from, when they first appeared in Sarlona? Why did the Inspired order the mass exodus of Syrkarn? Why, in a world where few creatures are bound to the alignment, do the yuan-ti of Xen’drik and Argonnessen seem entirely evil?

The scholar Abel Varmanc proposed an answer to these questions. The Overlords of the first age are bound across Eberron, and it is certain that one is imprisoned beneath Syrkarn; Abel believes that “Syrkarn” is in fact the name of this archfiend. Varmanc asserts that during the epic magewars that destroy Khunan, the seals of Syrkarn were weakened… and that the first yuan-ti were humans corrupted by Syrkarn’s power. Varmanc further believes that the Inspired couldn’t find a way to fully rebind the Overlord, which is why they evacuated the region; if they couldn’t completely defeat the fiend, they could at least deny it subjects and victims. The final piece of the Varmanc’s theory is this: the yuan-ti are uniquely vulnerable to the influence of the Overlords. As they traveled from continent to continent, they were further touched and corrupted by the influence of others—by the Daughter of Khyber in Argonnessen, who fanned the flames of yuan-ti ambition and set the destruction in of Io’vakas in motion; and by the Scar that Abides in Xen’drik, further fueling their hatred and hunger for vengeance.

Of course, this is just a theory. Perhaps the yuan-ti are the product of evil and have only grown crueler and more dangerous over time; or perhaps they have always been innocent. Perhaps Io’kovas is an example of draconic tyranny as opposed to yuan-ti ambition. Perhaps all the stories of Syrkarn were just one more way for the Inspired to use fear to control the people, and to continue to manipulate them today. So in using the yuan-ti in your campaign, you have a choice. Are they…

  • Malevolent Masterminds. Varmanc’s theory is absolutely correct. The yuan-ti don’t serve the Lords of Dust, but they are vessels of immortal evil. Just as they did in Io’vakas, they seek arcane power that will allow them to dominate or destroy all other creatures. They are few in number, so they must use cunning and deception. Wherever they are found, they are either seeking power or sowing discord. In this case, the physical form of the yuan-ti is a reflection of their corruption, with the abominations being the closest to the overlords and most innately vile.
  • Consumed by Revenge. The yuan-ti aren’t inherently evil or corrupted by Overlords. But they are driven by the desire for revenge on humanity and the dragons—revenge they believe is absolutely justified. They aren’t unnecessarily cruel, but their ancestors have been betrayed by all they have trusted and they are hunted on two continents. In this case, the physical forms of the yuan-ti could have been created through Khunan magebreeding; there’s nothing evil about it, they simply sought to transcend their humanity.
  • Maligned Innocents. Another option is to say that the stories are entirely untrue, and that the yuan-ti are neither innately evil nor hungry for vengeance; they are simply persecuted refugees, afraid of both the Chamber and Inspired, trying to find a place where they can prosper. As above, the physical form of the yuan-ti could be the result of active magebreeding.

There’s another option to consider that could expand any of these: that the yuan-ti don’t serve the Overlords, but rather believe that they have been abused by the archfiends and seek their power too. It could well be that the yuan-ti have an innate connection to the Overlords, and that they believe they can use this to harness the power for themselves: not releasing the Overlords, but using their might for their own purposes. In this case, whatever path you choose, the physical form of the yuan-ti could be the product of the Overlords’ power and reflect their desire to transcend their human origins.

While the yuan-ti are primarily found in Sarlona, Argonnessen, and Xen’drik, depending on the path you take they could be found anywhere. There could be yuan-ti in Q’barra tapping into the power of the Cold Sun, or yuan-ti lurking in the sewers of Sharn. The question is whether they are simply hiding and trying to survive, or whether they are pursuing power and sowing discord.

Do the yuan-ti have any relation to the shulassakar?

Not directly. The shulassakar first appeared within Khalesh, a nation dedicated to the Silver Flame; the yuan-ti appeared later and to the west, in Khunan. However, as with all things yuan-ti, there’s a few possibilities. The simple one is that they are spiritual cousins. The shulassakar are humans transformed by the power of the Silver Flame; it’s thus reasonable to say that the yuan-ti are humans transformed in a similar manner but by a darker power, the Overlord Syrkarn. However, if you WANT them to be related, you could say that the yuan-ti are specifically shulassakar corrupted by Syrkarn… that a group of shulassakar embraced the darkness and went west in pursuit of power, and this dark force physically transformed them.

Are there any groups hunting the shulassakar? Inspired, the Lords of Dust, etc? Did they remain in Sarlona or make the exodus with the humans, changelings and ogres to Khorvaire?

While there’s conflicting statements about the shulassakar, the intent was that there was never a shulassakar NATION and they didn’t begin with a unique culture. Khalesh was a nation devoted to the Silver Flame, though with a far stronger focus on the couatl than the modern church or the Ghaash’kala. The shulassakar arose within Khalesh, and were the secret leaders of the land; they were seen as being blessed by the Flame. During the Sundering, the Inspired specifcally exposed and targeted the shulassakar, aligning them with the yuan-ti and depciting them as touched by evil; this turned Nulakhesh and Corvagura against Khalesh, and the shulassakar were relentlessly hounded. Some escaped to Khorvaire , others fled to Adar, others managed to hide within Riedra. But there were never many of them to begin with and their still aren’t. In Riedra, they are absolutely hunted by the Thousand Eyes and the Edgewalkers. They aren’t really common enough in Khorvaire to REQUIRE that they be hunted by the Lords of Dust, but yes, a shulassakar that is too open in its actions would attract the same sort of enemies as any dangerous champion of the Silver Flame.

If you have questions or thoughts about the yuan-ti in Eberron, post them below!