- I collaborated with Guild Adept Robert Adducci and my Manifest Zone co-host Wayne Chang on Curtain Call, a 1st-level adventure set in Sharn. It’s available now on the DM’s Guild! I’m also working on Morgrave’s Miscellany—a follow-up to the WGtE with Ruty Rutenberg—and a few other things of my own.
- Last Wednesday, I baked cookies with the crew from D&D Beyond.
- D&D Beyond has posted a few more talks with me, including this post on Religion and Faith in Eberron and this post on Halflings.
If you’re going to be in Portland, Oregon on September 8th, you could play D&D with ME as part of the Level Eater charity event. I’m running VIP Table 3, and there’s still a few seats left!
I’m getting ready for GenCon, and I hope I’ll see some of you there. Here’s what I’m up to.
ILLIMAT AND TWOGETHER STUDIOS
I’ll be at Booth 2667 for much of the convention. This is where my company, Twogether Studios, will be demonstrating our game Illimat. This is a neo-classic card game we created in conjunction with the band The Decemberists; it’s familiar and mysterious at the same time. And if you’re an Eberron player, you can check out this article about using Illimat in Eberron! We’ll be doing demos all weekend, but we also have a special promotion. Each day, the first 25 people to purchase an Illimat product receive a copy of the limited edition Rusalka Luminary, pictured above! This is ONLY at Booth 2667. We’ll also be demoing my game Action Cats at Booth 1552, and you can buy either game at either location, but you can only get the Rusalka at Booth 2667.
There’s two Eberron events on the GenCon Schedule.
Exploring Eberron with Keith Baker (Friday, 11 AM – Noon; Lucas Oil Mtg Rm 4)
The D&D setting of Eberron is a world of magic, pulp adventure, and noir intrigue. It’s been fifteen years since the Fantasy Setting Search that produced Eberron: join setting creator Keith Baker for a discussion of how Eberron came to be and how the world has evolved over the years!
Inkwell Society Live! (Friday, 9 PM – 11 PM; Westin Grand Blrm I & II)
Within the seedy underbelly of Eberron metropolis, Sharn, the Inkwell Society follows the path of broken, beleaguered level zeroes who would kill for a little class, but when their rise collides with the Dream Lily cartels, they find the streets they roam are anything but home. Don’t miss DM Ruty Rutenberg unfold the next installment of the Inkwell Society LIVE at Gen Con 2018!
Both of these events have limited space, so if you’re interested, get your tickets now!
I’ll be doing a single signing session: Thursday from 3 PM – 4 PM at Booth 2667.
I’m participating in the GenCon Writer’s Symposium this year. It’s a great program, and I’m doing four different session.
- Convincing Aliens (Thursday, 11 AM – Noon; Marriott – Atlanta Room)
- Finding Inspiration (Thursday, 4 PM – 5 PM; Marriott – Ballroom 1)
- Dealing With Imposter Syndrome (Friday, 10 AM – 11 AM; Marriott – Atlanta Room)
- When Fantasy Jumps The Shark (Friday, 3 PM – 4 PM; Marritott – Austin Room)
Most of these are already sold out, but there’s always the chance that there will be empty seats!
Whether we play a hand of Illimat or talk about Eberron, I hope to see you at GenCon!
The Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron was released on Monday, and a number of questions have already come up. Are warforged transformers? Where’s the artificer? Can you get a print version? Let’s look at a few of those issues.
Is the Wayfinder’s Guide official content?
The WGtE is a 176 page book. It explores the general themes of the setting, with a tighter focus on Khorvaire and Sharn. This includes character ideas, story hooks, and optional rules that help capture the flavor of the setting. This is my take on Eberron, but is being considered official content.
The WGtE also includes rules for races and dragonmarks, which I developed with Ruty Rutenberg over the last year. These are the rules *I* use, but we want them to receive a wider round of feedback before they are finalized for the Adventurer’s League. So this material isn’t currently legal for the AL. The WGtE is a living document. If these mechanics change, it will be updated both in D&D Beyond and on the DM’s Guild, so you won’t have to buy a revised version of this content. This is why the WGtE currently isn’t available in print: we want to make sure that it IS final before you commit to a print version. But in getting it now you have a chance to play Eberron as *I’M* playing it.
Where’s the artificer?
It’s coming. The artificer is already in development at WotC, so it was kept separate. A revised version of the artificer will be out soon in Unearthed Arcana, and Mike Mearls has said that this artificer will be added to the WGtE (which will be a free update for anyone who owns the book.
What is in WGtE for non-5e DMs who already have everything else ever written about Eberron?
The primary goal of the Wayfinder’s Guide is to give someone who knows nothing about the setting enough of a feel for the world to create a character or a story in it. It doesn’t focus on history or geography; it’s not an encyclopedia, it’s a guide to the flavor. It needs to serve the purpose of introducing someone who knows absolutely nothing to the world—but I also wanted it to be filled with inspiration for people who already know everything about it.
With this in mind, there’s generally less focus on exhaustive detail and more emphasis on what does this mean for YOU? It’s aimed both at players and DMs; it doesn’t reveal big secrets (such as, say, which rulers are vampires) but the ideas for what makes an Aundairian feel Aundairian are just as relevant when you’re making NPCs or setting a story in Fairhaven as they are for PCs. There’s ideas and optional rules that deal with capturing the FLAVOR of a pulp or noir story that aren’t in any of the existing Eberron sourcebooks.
As an example of this focus, here’s the entry on the Blood of Vol. In looking at the religions, I’m leaving out the deep details (what’s the church hierarchy like? What’s the history of it?) and focusing on if you follow this faith, what does that actually MEAN? How do you express your beliefs?
Likewise, the section on Sharn doesn’t provide the district-by-district breakdown of Sharn: City of Towers… because you can get that by buying Sharn: City of Towers, which is available on the DM’s Guild and still entirely accurate aside from the mechanics. So instead it provides ideas for what could bring characters to Sharn or keep them there. One of my favorite elements of the book is the Starting Points: three districts (Callestan, University, and Clifftop) that could be used as a starting point and ongoing hub for a campaign, with each one exploring a different style of story you can tell in Sharn.
Beyond this, the WGtE also explores a few new ideas that arise from the mechanics of 5E: specifically the introduction of wandslingers. If you read this blog you may have already encountered wandslingers, but this refines the idea and provides a variety of arcane focuses to work with.
If you own every Eberron book, you don’t NEED to buy the WGtE. But my goal was to make it interesting and inspiring for even the most experienced Eberron DM.
Has the timeline been advanced for 5e? What year is it considered to be now? Has any lore changed substantially?
I didn’t advance the timeline in the WGtE. 998 YK is a critical moment in time, and moving the timeline forward would require me to make a lot of decisions that could contradict things people have done in their own campaigns. It’s possible that the timeline could be advanced in the future, but I didn’t feel that it was necessary.
The WGtE has already been updated twice, but I don’t know what’s changed.
The current changes have been quite minor, but I’ll keep a running log of changes at the end of this post.
A spellshard is “1 gp per page”. I don’t see in the 5e rulebook how many pages per spell each spell is. I seem to remember 3e being 1 page per level of spell with 0-level spells taking up one page. Should we default to that rule?
Sure, that seems reasonable.
The Kalashtar ability score improvement reads “Your Wisdom and Charisma scores both increase by 1. In addition, one ability score of your choice increases by 1.” A number of dragonmarks also use this wording, which is different from Half-elves in the PHB which says “two other ability scores of your choice increase by 1.” So could a kalashtar increase the Wisdom score by an additional point, or is the RAI for them to pick another ability besides CHA or WIS?
That is correct. A kalashtar could have +2 Wisdom, +1 Charisma; +1 Wisdom, +2 Charisma; or +1 Wisdom, +1 Charisma, +1 Intelligence (or any other ability). The use of “one ability score” as opposed to “one other ability score” was a deliberate decision to give those races and marks additional flexibility.
I have a question about the Shifters and the Kalashtar. Are they available to other races? Are there, for example, Elven Shifters and Orcish Kalashtars?
Shifters aren’t a human hybrid; they are a unique race. The lived on Eberron before humanity ever arrived. If they are based on any race, it would probably be orcs; they both have a primal nature and strong presence on the west coast of Khorvaire. However, if that’s the case, neither race is aware of it. Shifters are shifters.
Meanwhile, the kalashtar were created by a concrete event: the merging of a group of quori spirits with a group of Adaran monks. Adar is an isolated human-dominant nation. You could suggest that a character is a NEW kalashtar created from a later bond—a different quori exile. But if you want to create a dwarf kalashtar or orc kalashtar you run into the question of why they lose biological abilities of the core race. Why don’t they have darkvision? Why isn’t the dwarf kalashtar resistant to poison? And if you add those abilities, what do you take away to maintain balance? So the idea is possible, but it’s not a simple shift.
Can a dragonmark be obtained by a Variant Human? And does it still only replace the Ability Score Increase?
NO. “Dragonmarked Human” is a type of variant human, and you can’t take it in addition to the variant human presented in the PHB.
Is there a particular reason that the Mark of Hospitality gets Friends and not the ability to use Purify Food and Drink as a ritual?
The first draft included both, but halflings have very little design space in their subrace; compare to the Ghostwise (one-way, 30′ telepathic communication). I chose to drop purify food and drink because it rarely comes into play for PCs, and can (ironically) spoil some interesting scenarios… it’s hard to have a cool poison plot if PCs routinely purify their meals. Conversely, friends is something you want to be careful about using, but CAN be useful in any social situation. Tied to that, I like it as really broadening the concept of “hospitality.” What we’ve established about Ghallanda is that they aren’t just about food; they’re about making connections, knowing the community, etc. What’s the stereotype of the perfect bartender? They’re easy to talk to. That’s the purpose of the friends cantrip. Everyone KNOWS Ghallanda heirs have a magical ability to set people at ease. As long as they use it in a friendly manner—getting you to talk about your problems—it’s NOT going to cause anger. If you abuse it—using it to trick someone—they’ll be angry. But if you’re just talking to a friend and you turn on the charm, that’s what they EXPECT from you; you’re Ghallanda.
So essentially, I felt they couldn’t have both and that friends did more to expand the role of the house… while purify food and water could be an ability attached to a focus item. Just like…
Concerning the Mark of Scribing, where exactly did the concept of the Arcane Mark go?
It went to the scribe’s pen, a common dragonmark focus item. This comes back to the core idea that focus items are a critical part of many house services. This is a critical point for many of the changes to the mark. Jorasco can cast lesser restoration. You can have a Shadow focus that grants disguise self, and it should be about half the cost of a standard hat of disguise. Essentially, don’t get too bogged down in the concrete powers of the actual mark; the IDEA of the Mark is the key, and its full powers can manifest as class abilities or through focus items.
The races of Eberron received a development pass from WotC design and have been released as Unearthed Arcana content. Because of this, I’m not the final authority on how they work. I’ll share my OPINIONS, but Sage Advice is the final authority here.
Are warforged humanoids? constructs? both?
Under 5E rules, warforged are humanoids.
So is the intent that ALL spells work normally on warforged PCs (other than, maybe, unique plot-device anti-warforged spells) including Antilife Shell & Horrid Wilting?
That is correct. Warforged are immune to disease and sleep, and resistant to poison, but otherwise they are treated like other creatures.
From a story/setting perspective, how does magical healing work for warforged?
While warforged are made from wood and metal, the idea is that the magic that suffuses them magic them functionally living creatures. Some of their mass IS organic; we’ve always send that the fibers you can see under their plating are an organic rootlike material. Beyond that, the idea is that their lifeforce is essentially tied to their material form and as they regain energy the body heals. This is tied to the fact that just like other characters, a warforged heals all damage at the end of a long rest. In my mind, this literally involves the body being mystically restored to “factory standard.” You can add cosmetic flavor to this—you can have your warforged hammering out dents in his armor—but the key point is that warforged heal like other creatures.
Warforged Integrated Protection
I would be interested in your thought process in creating the warforged integrated armor.
The warforged went through many different variations and iterations. The original 3.5 warforged set their AC at character creation with a feat and couldn’t change it going forward. The UA warforged wore armor like any other character and just received a +1 bonus to AC. With 5E, we wanted to keep the idea that armor is a part of warforged, while also allowing some degree of flexibility for a character whose capabilities change over time. We tried a version with AC tied to subrace and a version where you set AC at first level, like the 3.5 version. The final version was developed in conjunction with the WotC design team, and led us to the current version where warforged can shift their armor type at the end of a long rest. While this may seem odd, it’s always been part of the idea that warforged are LIVING creatures and can physically evolve; the reforged and warforged juggernaut were 3.5 prestige classes that embraced this concept. This just extends that idea… which is also a better match for the 5E healing model. Essentially, when a warforged completes a long rest it’s able to restore any damage its sustained. If it can do that, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine it shifting its plating.
In terms of the capabilities of integrated protection, the original Unearthed Arcana warforged had a flat +1 to AC. The WGtE warforged generally start off with an AC equivalent to the best armor a character with the appropriate proficiencies can buy. Composite plating gives a first-level warforged AC 15, the same as half-plate; heavy plating is the same as plate armor. The warforged is ahead because starting characters can’t afford those armors, but the gap closes as other character get access to better armor. At level 5, heavy plating gives you AC 19, the same as +1 plate armor. Conversely, the original UA warforged could get +1 plate armor and have its +1 inherent AC on top of that. As is, warforged are ahead of the curve, but up until the highest levels other characters CAN match their AC with the right equipment. It’s also the case that the warforged takes an opportunity cost in that they gain no benefit from armor—so they don’t get the secondary benefits another character can receive from magical armor.
Does the Warforged Heavy Plating Integrated Protection work with the Fighter’s Defense Fighting Style? Unclear on if (armor) means you’re “wearing armor” or not.
The intent is while you are using darkwood core you are not considered to be wearing armor for purposes of game effects such as Unarmored Defense, while you are considered to be wearing armor when you’re using one of the plating modes. However, as written Integrated Protection doesn’t allow you to benefit from the Defense Fighting Style. This won’t be changed until people have a chance to provide feedback on the race mechanics as they stand.
Composite Plating and Heavy Plating both say “Armored” but do they count as medium and heavy armor respectively? Specifically does a warforged Barbarian in Heavy Plating mode lack access to the benefits of rage?
As written, the current version simply specifies that plating counts as armor, not that it counts specifically as heavy or medium armor. So in this version, a warforged barbarian can rage while in the heavy plating mode… though they will have to acquire the heavy armor proficiency before they can use heavy plating.
Can a warforged using the (unarmored) mode wear a magical suit of armor and get the benefits of it?
No. Darkwood core leaves you as “unarmored” for purposes of any feature that interacts with being armored or unarmored. But that has no effect on the core Integrated Protection statement “You gain no benefit from wearing armor.” As a warforged, you don’t use armor; instead, you have warforged components.
Is it possible to enchant a warforged’s integrated plating? Would the Integrated Protection of a warforged be considered a “nonmagical object that is a suit of armor” for Forge Clerics?
No on both counts. In 5E, the idea is that a warforged is essentially a suit of magic armor. You can’t add additional enchantments to it. Instead, the strength of its enchantments inherently increases over time—which is reflected by warforged getting to add their proficiency bonus to their AC. So a warforged Forge cleric couldn’t enchant their body, but they could still enchant a weapon.
When a warforged is using the darkwood core (unarmored) mode and have light armor proficiency, can they choose whether they are considered to be armored or unarmored?
No. You are always considered to be unarmored when using darkwood core, and always considered to be armored when using plating.
If I’m playing a warforged barbarian, do I get to add my Constitution to my Integrated Protection? What about a warforged monk?
No and no. Integrated Protection and Unarmored Defense are two separate features that set your AC, and the Sage Advice ruling on this is that you pick one—you don’t combine them. If you have your Integrated Protection mode set to darkwood core, you are considered to be unarmored and can thus use Unarmored Defense—but you’re always either using one or the other to determine your AC.
Is composite plating necessarily metal? Are warforged druids stuck with darkwood core?
I put this one to Jeremy Crawford, and he said that warforged druids CAN use composite plating. “It’s their body.”
Warforged Integrated Tool
An envoy warforged has an integrated tool that’s part of its body, and gains expertise with that tool. In the PHB, tool proficiencies provided by backgrounds include vehicles. So can I have a warforged with a built-in wagon?
All things require the approval of the DM. If your DM WANTS to let you have a warforged with a built in boat, that’s great. But the design intent is that this applies to the specifically identified tools listed on page 154 of the Player’s Handbook. This does not include mounts and vehicles, which are detailed on the following page (“vehicles” are on 154, but not detailed). So again, if you and your DM agree, go for it. But it is not the design intent.
Tinker’s tools weigh ten pounds! Can an envoy have a built in tinker’s tools? Or a full dragonchess set?
Certainly. The intention is that your warforged has a functioning version of this tool. This doesn’t mean that it in any way resembles the tools a human would use to perform the same task. A warforged with an integrated herbalism kit could literally have a garden built into its back, and pull out the herbs it needs when it needs them. Most important, consider that warforged are inherently magical creatures. They CAN physically alter their bodies (as shown by healing and integrated protection) and as shown by the spell prestidigitation it’s possible to create small, temporary objects through magic. So an integrated tool could be fully functional at all times—a warforged with smith’s tools has a hand that can function as a hammer. But it’s just as valid to say that the warforged does either perform a minor transformation to produce these tools or that it literally produces a temporary tool. Your integrated thieves tools could be lockpick fingers, but you could also study a lock and manufacture a key to fit it. Essentially, the FUNCTIONAL EFFECT is that the warforged always has a working version of this tool—but it’s up to you to decide exactly what that looks like.
Do you think an Envoy Warforged equipped with a disguise kit would also be able to disguise their voice?
Sure—in the same way that a human with a disguise kit or an elf with a disguise kit could disguise their voice. They don’t have a special automatic success at doing it, but I’d consider it to be part of the ability check. If you want to have perfect Terminator style mimicry, you can get the Actor feat.
That’s all for the moment: post further questions below!
- 7/23/17. Page numbering corrected on appendix pages.
- 7/24/17. Introduction text adjusted, kalashtar added to table of contents.
Eberron was born sixteen years ago. It’s been eight years since I’ve been able to write new material, and in that time I’ve worked on many things… Illimat. Action Cats. Even another roleplaying game, Phoenix: Dawn Command. But in all that time, my heart’s still been in Eberron. And now Eberron has come to fifth edition.
The Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron is now available on the DM’s Guild. It’s a PDF product, and it’s treated as Unearthed Arcana material. This is Eberron as I’m playing it at my table. The goal is of the book is to give you everything you need to start running Eberron at your table… but also to test these ideas and get your feedback on them. It’s a 170 page book, and the bulk of it is about the world. But it’s also a living document, and the mechanical material—races, dragonmarks—will evolve over time. This is one reason it’s not currently available as print on demand; the PDF will be updated as we gather feedback on the material.
So what is the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron? I’ll start by telling you what it’s not, and that’s a rehash of either the Eberron Campaign Setting or the Eberron Campaign Guide. Both of those books are available on the DM’s Guild, and it seemed foolish to lead off with a book that simply repackages information many of you already have. The WGtE isn’t an encyclopedia. It doesn’t delve deeply into history or geography. Instead it talks about the themes of Eberron, the things that define the setting, and how these can affect your game. How can you capture the feel of pulp adventure or neo-noir intrigue? What impact could the Last War have on your character or your campaign?
- New versions of changelings, kalashtar, shifters, and warforged, along with information and ideas about how the common races fit into Eberron. If you’re a Mror dwarf, why did you leave the Holds? if you’re a Zil gnome, what schemes are you caught up in?
- An overview of Khorvaire with a focus on ideas for characters and NPCs from each nation.
- Rules for dragonmarks, the mystical sigils that play an important role in the setting. This includes greater dragonmarks and aberrant dragonmarks.
- A selection of unique magic items, including dragonshards, warforged component items, and new arcane focuses for your wandslinger.
- An overview of Sharn, City of Towers with a focus on getting you started with your character or your story. This includes a host of interesting background hooks and story ideas, along with three separate starting points for different styles of campaign… including the gritty Callestan campaign I’m running at home!
The Wayfinder’s Guide is written for both players and DMs. It doesn’t give away any of the deep secrets of the world, but it’s designed to serve as an inspiration both for creating characters and adventures… and I’ll just say that there’s a lot of ideas squeezed into those 170 pages.
What Happens Next?
Eberron has been unlocked for the DM’s Guild. I’m currently working on the Morgrave’s Miscellany with guild adept & Inkwell Society creator Ruty Rutenberg (who collaborated on the dragonmarks and races for the WG). The Miscellany will delve into a range of subjects that didn’t make it into the Wayfinder’s Guide, including Siberys Dragonmarks and some classic Eberron archetypes. Beyond that, there’s a host of topics I’ve been wanting to explore for years now: the Planes of Eberron, Droaam, Darguun, Eberron Underwater, and more. I’ll get to all of these things and more; it’s a question of when. I’ve posted a poll here, on my Patreon site; you don’t have to be a patron to vote on it. Let me know what you want to see first!
In addition to writing new material for Eberron, I want to get back to another project that’s been on a back burner for a long time. Back in 2009—before the age of Kickstarter and Patreon—I bootstrapped something I called Have Dice Will Travel. I roamed around the world running an Eberron game for interesting groups of people. I wrote about a few of my adventures for The Escapist, but lack of funding and a creative collaborators caused it to fizzle out. Now with crowdfunding, new support for Eberron, and my partnership with Jenn Ellis and our company Twogether Studios, we’re exploring different ways to bring back Have Dice Will Travel.
We don’t yet know exactly what form this will take. A travel/D&D podcast? A book? Both? What we do know is that we want to capture the diverse people around the world who play RPGs and tell their stories. If you want to make sure you get the latest news, join the Twogether Studios mailing list. And if you feel that you have a particularly interesting gaming group or town we might want to visit on our tour, follow this link and tell us about it!
That’s all for now. Thank you for joining me in this return to Eberron. I look forward to seeing what all of you do with the world!
A druid draws their power from Eberron. All natural life—from the druid, to the wolf, to the tree—is connected, all part of Eberron. The druid can use this connection to assume the form of other natural creatures, to manipulate the weather and other natural phenomena, to influence plants and animals.
With that said, what does it mean to be a druid? To most of the people in Eberron, the word “druid” conjures an image of mysterious sects conducting rituals in the deep wilds, of Ashbound avengers and Wardens of the Wood. Such druidic orders certainly exist, but a critical point is that not all of their members are druids.
In Eberron, the classes used by player characters reflect a remarkable degree of talent and potential. Most priests of the Silver Flame aren’t clerics or paladins. The same holds true with the members of druidic sects. Consider a few tiers of mystical talent.
- Many of those who follow the Eldeen traditions are hunters, farmers, or initiates in the mysteries who have yet to unlock mystical powers. A hunter might be proficient in Survival and Stealth. An Initiate would likely be proficient with Survival and Nature, and perhaps Medicine, Insight, or Persuasion—useful skills for advising a community and helping to resolve disputes. These people are competent and devoted, but they don’t have all the talents of player characters.
- Player characters and champions of a sect may have classes, but they won’t all be druids. Rangers play an important role in all of the Eldeen sects. Barbarians can be found in many of them, and there are Greensinger bards and warlocks. It’s a druidic tradition, but not restricted to druids.
- Other NPCs fall between these two extremes. An initiate might know a few cantrips, spells, or rituals—druidcraft, speak with animals—without having the full scope of a true druid. You might meet an initiate with the Wild Shape ability… but who can only use it to assume a narrow range of shapes (local birds, for example).
So: you can follow one of the druidic traditions without having any levels in the druid class. Conversely, you can have druid as your class without being tied to any of these traditions.
What is the Druidic Language?
What I’m suggesting here is that druids aren’t all bound by common traditions, and that you can take level in the druid character class without sharing any traditional druidic beliefs. But if that’s the case, what’s the Druidic language? How is it that a Talenta maskweaver and a shifter weretouched master—two people with absolutely no cultural overlap—somehow know this secret language unknown to the rest of the world? And furthermore, once it’s that widespread, why don’t MORE people know it? Shouldn’t rangers in the Wardens of the Wood learn to speak Druidic?
There’s two ways to approach this. One is to treat Druidic as a mundane language—exotic, certainly, but as a mundane language that anyone could learn. If I were to do this, I’d definitely make it available to anyone in an Eldeen sect regardless of class. But it still raises the question of why a Qaltiar drow druid in Xen’drik—someone whose culture has never had any contact with Khorvaire—would share a language with both the Talenta Maskweaver and the Warden of the Woods.
A second option is to say that Druidic is a fundamentally magical language. It’s not some sort of secret code: it is literally the language of Eberron. If you embrace this idea, you can extend this to say that the ability to perform druidic magic is integrally tied to knowledge of the Druidic language—that the two are one and the same. Think of Druidic as the source code of the natural world; when you perform a druid spell with verbal components, you are simply speaking in Druidic. Depending on YOUR beliefs, you might see this as petitioning the spirits for aid or you could see it as simply operating the “machinery” of nature. But the idea remains that the Druidic language is the tool used to perform magic. All druids understand it because mastering it is a fundamental part of what it means to be a druid. Even if you’re a hermit who learned your druidic abilities by listening to the wind, when you meet another druid you’ll find you both speak the same language—the language you learned from the wind. The idea here is that while Druidic can be considered to be a language for purposes of spells like comprehend languages—which is to say, magic can reveal its meaning—only someone who can cast spells from the druid spell list can fully learn the language.
With THAT in mind, I’d probably drop Druidic from some of my variant “druid-who’s-not-a-druid” ideas… allowing them to learn another language in its place. And I might allow another character (a Nature cleric casting themselves as a variant druid, a spellcasting ranger or Greensinger bard with spells that can be found on the druid spell list) to learn Druidic. Here again, the point isn’t that they learn it like any other language; it’s that knowledge of the language is an inherent part of their connection to druidic magic.
The broad idea of druids as a servants of nature, tied to ancient traditions and serving as spiritual guides and protectors—can be seen across Khorvaire. It’s most obvious in the Eldeen Reaches, where every major community has a druidic advisor. The Gatekeeper tradition of the Shadow Marches is older still, and Gatekeeper initiates and wardens have been protecting Eberron from unnatural forces for thousands of years. Halfling druids guide the nomadic tribes of the Talenta Plains. The Tairnadal elves worship the spirits of the past, but there are warrior druids among their ranks; the Valenar capital of Taer Valaestas is protecting by a living wall of thorns.
How do these traditions map to 5E? If you’re a Warden of the Woods, should you take the Circle of the Land or Circle of the Moon? Personally, I prefer to avoid concrete restrictions. In particular, Land druids focus on spellcasting while Moon druids enhance their shapeshifting talents. To me, this can easily reflect the aptitude of an individual. Most Wardens of the Wood may be Land druids… but if your WotW shifter Wolf excels at shapeshifting and prefers to be in lupine form, I have no problem with her being a Moon druid and a Warden. In the descriptions below I suggest common classes, but there’s nothing to prevent you from making an uncommon character.
The Wardens of the Wood
Common Classes: Cleric (Nature), Druid (Land), Ranger (Hunter, Beast Master)
The Wardens of the Wood are the largest of the sects of the Eldeen Reaches, with thousands of active members. The primary purpose of the Wardens is to protect the innocent: which includes protecting the people of the region from the dangers of the wild, but simultaneously protecting the innocent creatures of wood and wild from dangers posed by civilization. The Wardens ensure that the dangers of the Towering Wood don’t spill out into the farmlands of the Eldeen Reaches, while also dealing with brigands and poachers. The Wardens work with the farmers of the Reaches, and every Eldeen village has a Warden advisor who helps ensure that the farmers are working with the land instead of harming it, and who seeks to peacefully resolve disputes within their village or with other communities.
The Wardens serve as the militia of the Eldeen Reaches. While they are the largest sect, most of their members are hunters or advisors. Among the druids, the Circle of Land is the most common path; however, druids with a knack for shapeshifting might take the Circle of the Moon, and those who guard the deep woods may follow the Circle of the Shepherd.
As a Warden, one question is why you’ve left your community behind. The Wardens act to protect the wild from the world and vice versa; how are your adventures advancing that goal?
Common Classes: Barbarian (Beast Totem, Berserker, Storm Herald); Druid (Moon, Shepherd)
Where the Wardens of the Wood believe that nature and civilization must be kept in balance, the Ashbound believe that they are at war—and the Ashbound are the champions of nature. Ashbound seek to defend the natural world from the depredations of civilization. In frontier regions, this often involves guerilla strikes against encroaching settlements or making brutal examples of poachers. However, the Ashbound also see arcane magic as a dangerous and corrupting force. Ashbound have made strikes against the holdings of dragonmarked houses and released bound elementals, often causing chaos in the process.
Barbarians are common among the Ashbound. This doesn’t reflect savagery; it’s about drawing on the fury of the natural world, which may manifest through the Storm Herald archetype. Ashbound druids are warriors, and many follow the Moon Circle so they can fight with tooth and claw.
While the Ashbound believe that arcane magic is a corrupting force and that divine spellcasters are little better (clearly bargaining with alien forces that have no place in the natural world), it’s still possible to play a moderate Ashbound as a PC. You want to emphasize the reason you are out in the world—to stop the Mourning from spreading, to find allies to bring down the dragonmarked houses. If your party is serving this greater cause, you can overlook the actions of the party wizard—but you’d still want to encourage them to limit the use of unnatural magic, using it only when absolutely required.
The Children of Winter
Common Classes: Barbarian (Zealot), Druid (Spores, Twilight), Ranger (Gloom Stalker, Monster Slayer)
The Children of Winter see death, disease, and decay as part of the natural order. They believe that if the natural order is bent too far the world will retaliate with a terrible cleansing fury (the metaphorical “Winter” of their name)… and many in the sect believe that the Mourning is the first stage of that destruction. On the positive side, the Children of Winter despise undead as creatures that defy the cycle of life and death, and many of the are dedicated to hunting down and destroying undead. On the darker side, some believe that the benefits of civilization also defy the natural order, allowing the weak and infirm to survive when they’d never survive in the wilds. They see disease as an important tool that weeds out the weak and may spread disease in large cities or towns; but they may also push other situations that force conflict and ensure the survival of the fittest. However, not all Children approve of these methods. Likewise, some extremists among the Children believe that the apocalyptic Winter has already begun and should be welcomed, and that great cities should be torn down; while others fervently believe that the Mourning is a warning and that there is still time to stop this cataclysm. Such Children seek to contain contaminated regions, such as the Mournland and the Gloaming.
The Children of Winter are a small sect, but have a high percentage of elite individuals. They are comfortable in darkness, thus leading some to following the path of the Gloom Stalker ranger or the Twilight Druid. Monster Slayer rangers specialize in hunting down the undead. The Spore druid is a good match for the Children who embrace decay and disease, and its temporary ability to create a spore zombie (for one hour) is acceptable within the sect, but Children wouldn’t cast animate dead.
As a Child of Winter PC, you are trying to protect the world from the coming apocalypse. You do this by fighting undead, by investigating the Mourning, and when possible by pushing situations that test the weak. You may oppose extremists among the sect engaging in actions you believe are unjustified. While death is part of the natural cycle, you’re still able to heal your allies. You oppose using magical healing to sustain creatures who could never survive in the wild. But healing the fighter after he chooses to battle a pack of vampires—an unnatural situation he could have easily avoided—is entirely justified.
Common Classes: Barbarian (Ancestral Guardian, Beast Totem); Druid (Land, Shepherd); Ranger (Horizon Walker, Monster Slayer)
The primary mission of the Gatekeepers is to protect the natural world from unnatural forces. They are best known for fighting aberrations, but they are equally concerned about fiends and other things that do not belong in the natural world. The Gatekeepers have their roots in the Shadow Marches, and there are many in the Shadow Marches who support the “Old Ways”; but they have a presence across Khorvaire, often in the shadow of House Tharashk. Gatekeepers are constantly vigilant for extraplanar incursions, and also work to maintain existing seals that hold the Daelkyr in Khyber.
While Land and Shepherd are sound circles for Gatekeeper Druids, the Circle of the Moon is entirely appropriate for Gatekeepers who prefer to fight with tooth and claw. It’s believed that ancient Gatekeepers created the first horrid animals, and it’s thought that some Gatekeepers could assume horrid forms. The ranks of the Gatekeepers include passionate barbarians and more strategic rangers; the Horizon Walker is an especially appropriate path for Gatekeeper rangers.
As a Gatekeeper PC, are you simply keeping an eye out for trouble or do you have a particular task in hand? You might be pursuing a particular threat—a Cult of the Dragon Below, a Daelkyr agent. Or you could be protecting something: a location or an artifact that needs to be kept safe.
Common Classes: Bard (Glamour); Druid (Dreams); Ranger (Horizon Walker); Warlock (Archfey)
The Greensingers believe that the magic of the fey compliments and enhances nature, and they encourage close ties between Thelanis and Eberron. They work to improve relations between mortals and the fey, teaching people how to safely interact with the fey and serving as ambassadors to the faerie realms. While the bards and druids draw the most attention, many Greensingers are simply people who learn the stories of the fey and follow their traditions, seeking to live in harmony with their fey neighbors.
Any path that touches the Fey has a place among the Greensingers. The Dream druid is the archetypal Greensinger, but their ranks include quite a few bards and a handful of warlocks. One critical point is that while the Greensingers are united by core principles, many Greensingers are aligned with a particular archfey—a patron who has ties to their region—and they may work to advance the specific agenda of their patron in the world. This can lead to feuds between Greensingers working for different archfey. This is expected and understood, though Greensingers will try not to kill rivals in the sect. This also leads to the image of Greensingers as a source of mischief and chaos; their actions are unpredictable, as they serve the agendas of different fey.
In creating a Greensinger druid, you should decide if you follow the general principles of the sect or if you have a tie to a specific archfey. If so, work with your DM to work out the story of your patron and the role they might play in the campaign.
Common Classes: Cleric (Nature), Druid (Land, Shepherd)
The Siyal Marrain are the druids of the Tairnadal, descended from heroes who unleashed the force of nature against the giants of Xen’drik. The Siyal Marrain see nature as a tool and a weapon, and don’t have the same sort of devotion to the natural world found among the Eldeen sects. Members of this order care for and protect the famed horses of the Tairnadal; legends say that the first of these Valenar warhorses were druids trapped in wild shape by a giant’s curse, and that this is the source of their remarkable abilities. Aside from this, the Siyal Marrain are warriors who ride with warbands and use their powers in battle.
The Siyal Marrain revere their ancestors, just like other Tairnadal; their patron ancestors were druid heroes. With this in mind, when a Siyal Shepherd druid conjures their beast totem, it could actually manifest as an aspect of a Tairnadal hero as opposed to being a purely primal beast spirit. Meanwhile, a Nature cleric is a path for a Siyal who’s more focused on direct combat—relying on armor as opposed to shapeshifting. Rangers and other classes aren’t listed as the Siyal aren’t a broad tradition like the Eldeen sects; being one of the Siyal Marrain means being a primary spellcaster.
As with any Tairnadal elf, in creating a Siyal druid you should work with your DM to develop the story of your patron ancestor and to consider your relationship with Tairnadal culture. Why aren’t you serving with a warband or protecting the herds? Is your career as an adventurer driven by the actions of your ancestor?
Common Classes: Druid (Dreams, Moon, Shepherd)
The halflings of the Talenta Plains believe that the world around them is filled with spirits—spirits of nature, spirits of their ancestors, and more. A number of details of this tradition can be found in this article. A maskweaver guides their tribe and serves as an intermediary for the spirits: part medium, part ambassador. They help warriors forge bonds to their mounts, and as the name implies, they help to create the masks that serve as important tools when dealing with the spirits.
Like the Greensingers, the Talenta druids often deal with the fey. Unlike their Eldeen counterparts, the maskweavers see no distinction between fey, purely natural spirits, or the ghosts of their ancestors. As far as the druid is concerned, all of these things are part of the spirit world, and all should be treated with respect. Talenta druids may also show respect for the Sovereigns Balinor and Arawai; however, they generally assert that these Sovereigns were Talenta heroes—that Balinor was a legendary hunter—and revere them in the same way as the other spirits.
The three common classes described above reflect different paths. The Moon druid focuses on working with dinosaurs, and excels at assuming dinosaur shapes. The Shepherd deals first and foremost with natural and ancestral spirits. Generally their totems reflect common beasts of the Plains: the Bear is the Hammertail (ankylosaurus), the Eagle is the Glidewing (pteranodon), and the Wolf is the Clawfoot Raptor. However, a druid devoted to heroes of the past—or Arawai and Balinor—could conjure spectral traces of those heroes as their totems. Meanwhile, the Dreams druid focuses on the fey spirits and manifest zones. This is specifically a druidic tradition (though it could apply to a Nature cleric). There are many barbarians and rangers in the Plains, and a few Archfey warlocks; while these champions may respect the spirits, only the druids perform the duties of the maskweavers.
Druids That Aren’t Druids
Mechanically, a druid is primarily defined by spellcasting abilities, limited armor, and Wild Shape. Here’s a few quick ideas for characters that use the druid class withoutbeing spiritual devotees of nature.
Normally, a changeling can only assume humanoid forms. But a changeling who devotes themselves to the art of shapeshifting can transcend this limitation, mastering the ability to assume a wide array of shapes. At its core, a menagerie is a Moon druid focused on their shapeshifting powers.
You could play this as a character in touch with primal forces, in which case you could speak Druidic and cast any spells on the druid list. however, if you want to play the character as a master-of-shapes without delving into the primal connection, you could swap Druidic for a standard language and focus on spells that fit either shapeshifting abilities or changeling powers. Barkskin, darkvision, jump, longstrider, meld into stone, poison spray, resistance, and similar spells could all tie to shapeshifting mastery. Charm person, guidance, hold person, and the like could reflect enhanced psychic abilities. And healing spells, enhance ability, protection from energy and such could reflect an ability to alter the forms of others; I could see cure wounds being a sort of disturbing thing where you touch someone and scar over their wounds using your own body tissue.
The Mark of Handling gives a character a mystical connection to the natural world. But this gift isn’t something the heir earns; it is their birthright. A Vadalis heir could present druidic magic as a symptom of their dominion over nature. The same connection that lets you influence the behavior of animals could allow you to assume their forms… or even to control a wider range of creatures with charm person and hold person.
A Vadalis monarch could function as a normal druid and could even potentially understand Druidic, but I’d play up the flavor that this is a power of your mark and something you demand as opposed to a petition to spirits or natural forces.
Shifters are well suited to primal paths and to being traditional druids or rangers, and shifters can be found in most of the Eldeen sects. However, you could play a shifter druid as an expert in shapeshifting as opposed to being a servant of nature. As with the changeling menagerie, I’d make this a Moon druid and encourage spells that reflect control of shape. A shifter might not take charm person or hold person, but even without druidic faith, speak with animals, animal friendship, and similar spells could be justified as being a manifestation of the shifter’s lycanthropic heritage.
These are just a few ideas, but hopefully you understand the concept! If you have questions post them below. As always, thank you to my Patreon supporters, who make it possible for me to spend time on this site.
What exactly is the difference between a Nature cleric and a druid? Does a follower of the Sovereign Host have to be a cleric? Could I play a Warden of the Woods as a Nature cleric?
Well, let’s look at the concrete mechanical differences between the two.
- A Nature cleric can wear any sort of armor, including heavy armor. A druid isn’t proficient with heavy armor, and the PHB states that “druids will not wear armor or use shields made of metal.”
- Wild Shape is an important element of the druid. A Nature cleric doesn’t shapeshift.
- A Nature cleric has a different selection of combat spells. Sacred flame has a better range than any druid cantrip, and guiding bolt is a strong, long range attack; by contrast, the druid can unleash a thunderwave or lash enemies with a thorn whip.
- Generally speaking, the druid is more of a close range combatant. As noted above, most of their battle magic is relatively close range, and Wild Shape generally drives them towards melee combat.
- A Nature cleric doesn’t know Druidic.
It’s certainly simple to say that as a general rule, priests of the Sovereign Host are clerics and spellcasters in the Eldeen Reaches are druids. However, I always believe in putting story first. If someone wants to play a priest of Balinor who excels at assuming the forms of wild beasts, I see no reason not to make that character a druid. Likewise, if someone wants to be a Warden of the Wood but doesnt’ want to deal with shapechaning, I’m fine with making them a Nature Cleric. The main issue to me is Druidic. If I feel the character IS essentially a druid from the story side, I’d let them swap out one of their current languages for druidic. On the other hand, I’m fine with the idea that the typical priest of Arawai doesn’t speak Druidic. Per my idea above, Druidic is something you learn as part of directly engaging with the natural world… while a typical Sovereign priest reaches out to a deity, not to the world itself.
In my Q’barra campaign, I had a player who really liked the idea of being a Greensinger druid, but who had no interest in shapeshifting and preferred being able to use long-ranged magic in combat. So we made her character a Nature cleric instead of a druid. I allowed her to swap a language for Druidic. Beyond this: She had heavy armor proficiency, but wearing heavy armor really didn’t fit the image of the character. We agreed that she had received a gift from her Archfey patron: mystical tattoos across her body. She had an amulet, and when she wore the amulet the tattoos hardened her skin and protected her… essentially, barkskin. While active, the tattoos shimmered and glowed slightly—not providing useful illumination, but giving her disadvantage on Stealth checks (just like wearing heavy armor). The net result of this was to give her the AC that her class proficiencies allowed, while still having limitations (Stealth penalty, obvious to observers, it could be “removed” by taking away the amulet). Now, YOUR DM might not be willing to go that far, and that’s entirely reasonable. I’m a fan of this sort of reskinning to fit an interesting story—but it does add complexity and potentially balance questions, and it’s always up to each DM to decide what they’re comfortable with.
Why use the existing archetypes instead of making new archetypes for the Eldeen sects?
The Eberron IP belongs to Wizards of the Coast, and legally you can’t post new Eberron material. So I’m looking at the best match within existing material. The Horizon Walker ranger is a solid option for a Gatekeeper, and the Twilight druid is a good match for the Children of Winter. If Eberron is unlocked for 5E I might explore archetypes that are more directly tied to the concepts of a particular tradition, but it’s currently not an option.
Phoenix: Dawn Command is a roleplaying game I developed with co-designer Dan Garrison and produced with my company Twogether Studios. Phoenix blends fantasy, action and suspense. Your world is besieged by a host of supernatural threats collectively known as the Dread. Hungry ghosts howl with the wind. Skinchangers prowl in the woods. Dead warriors are rising to prey on the living, and entire cities have be destroyed by a chant that drives those that hear it mad. As a Phoenix, you have died and returned to life imbued with the power you need to face the Dread. And when you die—and you will—you can return stronger than before… but only up to seven times.
Phoenix uses cards instead of dice. It encourages collaborative storytelling, and it’s a game where both failure and sacrifice are on the table. It’s a game where you could hurl yourself down the mouth of an undead giant to cut it apart from the inside: you might not survive, but you’ll go out with a bang.
I could tell you more about how it plays… but it would be easier for me to show you! Phoenix was featured on the current season of Starter Kit, a web series with an emphasis on learning to play. Over the course of six episodes, I guide a wing of Phoenixes through a dangerous mission and you get to see exactly what Phoenix is all about.
Starter Kit is on Geek & Sundry’s Project Alpha network. From now until the end of August 2018, you can get a 60-day subscription to Alpha free if you use the code PHOENIX while signing up. So if you’d like to what Phoenix is all about, join me and awesome cast Jason Charles Miller, Kelly Lynne, Havana Mahoney, and Alexis Torres on Starter Kit!
What’s that? You’ve watched Starter Kit and you want to get a copy of Phoenix of your very own? If your local game store doesn’t have a copy, you can get it from our website or on Amazon. In addition, at the moment, for every copy of Phoenix we sell, we’re donating a copy to StackUp.org—a charity providing games and support to veterans and active duty soldiers. Originally we set this to end on July 5th—when the final episode of Starter Kit airs—but we’re extending it through July 12th.
That’s it! If you’d like to see what Phoenix is all about, check out Starter Kit; if you get a copy before July 12th, we’ll send one to StackUp! And if you’d like to know more about Phoenix, this post provides more details, and this post specifically exploring the card mechanic!
I watch Westworld with a group of friends, and as we all enjoy games, I’ve been making bingo cards for each episode. I have no advanced knowledge of what is going to happen, and I when making bingo cards I like to put in squares that MIGHT happen as opposed to simply putting in things that we KNOW will happen… that way, as we’re watching the episode, we are watching for certain things. In the preview we’ve seen a clip of James Delos with a glass of whiskey in his hand… but will he actually drink any? Will we have a scene with a host William meeting a flesh and blood William (William: Meet William)? Will someone’s brain/personality be placed in someone else’s body? I DON’T KNOW—but if so, I might get a bingo!
So again: these spaces aren’t spoilers in the sense that I don’t know if any of them will happen, but the whole thing is filled with potential spoilers for people who haven’t seen the episode, hence the alert.
Here’s a file with 12 unique bingo cards: WestWorld Bingo 2.10
And here’s a taste of what it all looks like! Though it doesn’t look like anything to me…
The Raven Queen is trapped by her fascination with the past. She sits in her fortress, amidst all the memories of the world, looking at the ones that please her the most as though they were glittering jewels.
—From Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
The Raven Queen was introduced in 4th edition Dungeons&Dragons. In her original form she’s a mortal who attained godhood after death. She’s the goddess of death, but specifically she’s a psychopomp—her role is to safeguard the soul’s passage to its final destination. She is also presented as a goddess of fate and winter. Her tenets include the idea that death is the natural end of life and that her followers should bring down the proud who cast off the chains of fate. So: She’s a shadowy goddess of death, but presented in a positive light—and specifically being opposed to Orcus and the undead. She’s also presented as being able to spare worthy mortals from death if they will perform services for her.
Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes brings her to 5th edition, and in the process changes up her story. In 5th edition, she was originally an elf queen, a contemporary of Lolth and Corellon. She sought to attain godhood and in the process was pulled into the Shadowfell with her followers. She became an “entity composed of symbols, images, and perceptions.” She sustains herself by drawing on mortal memories, and thus created her Fortress of Memories. Those who go to her realm are “transported to a strange fairy tale world pulled from their experiences, filled with metaphors, parables, and allegories.” People might seek her out to free themselves from a dark past; to learn the secrets of the dead; or to find answers that only she possesses.
In both incarnations, she is served by the shadar-kai. In 5th edition, these servants are immortal; if they die, she will cloak them in new bodies to return to her service. She sends them out to uncover secrets or memories the Queen wishes to acquire.
So: we have a goddess of natural death who despises undead and seeks to safeguard soles and the natural course of fate. We have an Elven keeper of secrets who collects tragic memories. Both dwell in the Shadowfell, have shadowy servants, and may deal with mortals. How does this translate to Eberron?
Lest it go without saying, Eberron doesn’t have incarnate gods. So we know one thing she’s NOT, and that’s a god. She is a powerful extraplanar entity who can serve as a patron for warlocks. Perhaps it’s even possible for a cleric or paladin to gain power in her service, but if so, the power isn’t coming from her directly; it’s power gained in service to her ideals.
There’s a lot of different ways you could go with this. Here’s a few quick takes.
THELANIS. The archfey of Thelanis embody epic faerie tales, and that’s explicitly what the 5E version of the Raven Queen is: a fairy tale about a queen who sought power, was consumed by shadows, and now feeds on tragedy. It’s a simple matter to take her exactly as presented in MToF and simply place her Fortress of Memories in a shadowy layer of Thelanis. In this case, the shadar-kai are essentially immortal fey spirits temporarily housed in mortal forms to play their role in her story. She continues to seek memories and tragedy because that’s her story; it’s simply the case that when you deal with her, you want to think of her as a character in a faerie tale, to bear in mind that her goals and the logic driving her actions aren’t the same as those of mortals. If you want to follow this path, I’d check out my post on Thelanis. Note that this doesn’t incorporate any of the “Goddess of Death” aspect.
MABAR. In my article on Mabar I discuss the idea that realms are consumed by the Endless Night. The MToF story of the Raven Queen fits that idea well; it’s a tale of a mighty queen who seeks godhood and is consumed by her hubris, dragging herself and her followers into shadows from where she continues to feed on tragedy. You could certainly make the Raven Queen the ruler of a domain within Mabar. However, if this is the case, it would definitely play to presenting her as a more sinister and dangerous figure as opposed to being a possible ally or patron.
DOLURRH. The basic principle of Dolurrh is that it draws in the spirits of the dead and consumes their memories, leaving behind only forlorn shades. Most of the major religions assert that this is a side effect: that the memories aren’t being LOST, but rather they’re transitioning to a higher form of existence… either bonding with the Silver Flame or reaching the realm of the Sovereigns. Nonetheless, memories are lost. You could combine the two approaches and say that the Raven Queen is a powerful being who dwells in Dolurrh and saves the memories of the dead from being lost. This plays to the idea of people seeking her out to learn long-lost secrets from the memories of the dead. It also fits with the idea that she could restore ancient champions to life—that she preserves their spirits from the dissolution of Dolurrh so they can potentially be restored at a future time. This also fits with the idea that she could offer resurrection to a dead player character in exchange for their services in the mortal world, or that her shadar-kai are spirits restored to mortal bodies. In my mind, this is the best way to combine the two versions of her: she is a powerful entity who works to preserve the natural order of Dolurrh, encourages the natural cycle of death and despises undead, yet who also preserves the memories of the dead and could grant resurrection.
THE CHILDREN OF WINTER. If you work with the idea that “death is the natural end of life,” the Raven Queen could be the patron of the Children of Winter. This likely works best if she’s tied to Dolurrh, but it could work with any option. This would justify mixing a few warlocks among the druids and rangers.
ELVEN ORIGINS. Playing off the idea that she is connected to the history of the elves; that she hates those who defy fate; and that she collects memories, there’s another interesting path you could take: she could oppose the elves of Aerenal and Valenar. The elves seek to preserve their greatest souls from being lost to Dolurrh. The Raven Queen could seek the downfall of Tairnadal champions in order to claim the spirits of the patron ancestors they are sustaining; she could also oppose the Undying Court and its agents.
GUARDIAN OF FATE. In Eberron, fate is determined by the Draconic Prophecy. One option is to say that the Raven Queen knows the path the Prophecy is supposed to follow. When forces on Eberron—the Lords of Dust, the Chamber, the Undying Court—seek to change that path, the Raven Queen seeks to set things right, either using shadar-kai or pushing player characters onto the right path.
All of these are valid options, and you can mix and match them: She rules a layer of Mabar, but she was once an elf queen and seeks to destroy the Undying Court. She’s a power in Dolurrh and served by the Children of Winter. But there’s a final option that’s MY personal favorite, as it brings a number of different ideas together: tragic Elven backstory, mortal who’s become a godlike being, guardian of the natural cycle of death, mysterious motives and ties to fate, specific tie to Eberron. And that’s ERANDIS VOL.
THE ONCE AND FUTURE QUEEN OF DEATH
Erandis Vol was the product of experiments conducted by dragons and elves, experiments designed to produce a godlike being with power over death. But she was killed before she could unlock the powers of her apex dragonmark. She was brought back as a lich, but as an undead being she can’t access the power of her dragonmark and achieve her destiny. Her phylactery is hidden even from her; she can’t truly die, even if she wants to. For thousands of years she has tried to achieve her destiny. She’s done terrible things in pursuit of this goal. She raised ann army of undead champions and fanatics. Perhaps she’s gone mad. But at the heart, she’s trying to achieve her destiny: to become the Queen of Death.
One option is to say that there IS no Raven Queen… yet. Erandis is trying to BECOME the Raven Queen. But if it was me? I’d push things one level further. I’d use the Dolurrh version of the Raven Queen: the enigmatic spirit who preserves the experiences of the dead in her Fortress of Memories, who has the ability to catch the spirits of the dead and restore them if they serve her. This Raven Queen can be a mysterious ally for the PCs. She despises undead and those who seek to cheat and manipulate fate. She can point the PCs in directions that bring them into conflict with the Emerald Claw. And yet, even if they fight the Emerald Claw, these battles might also push Erandis towards her goals. On the surface, it seems like the Raven Queen and Erandis are the bitterest enemies, opposed in every way. But in fact, Erandis IS the Raven Queen… or will be. The process of ascension isn’t a simply thing; it transcends our normal understanding of time and reality. The Raven Queen has dwelt in her Fortress of Memories for eons: but at the same time, she is Erandis, and she still has to ascend. So the ascended Erandis despised the actions of the lich and helps those who oppose her; and yet, she also has to ensure that the ascension takes place.
Simple, right? And you can easily add the Raven Queen hating the Undying Court into that mix: not only do they defy the natural order of life and death, they also killed her family and HER, back when she was mortal.
So: there’s my thoughts on the Raven Queen in Eberron. Any questions?
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How do you see Raven Queen cultists as behaving in Eberron?
Have you met the Children of Winter? Seriously, though: it depends on how you interpret her. If you embrace the 4E direction, she’s about sustaining the natural cycle of life and death and enforcing fate, and as such being strongly opposed to the undead. You could easily play up these aspects of the Children of Winter. Currently they focus on how the tools of civilization interfere with the natural cycle, but they are presented as despising undead and you could choose to play this up. As suggested above, I’d see Raven cultists as being opposed to the Elven faiths and anyone seeking to shift the direction of the Draconic Prophecy. Beyond that—and with whichever version of the Queen that you use—as she is a powerful outsider as opposed to an abstract god, she can give concrete directives to cultist, whether that’s digging up a secret, killing someone who’s escaped their fate, or what have you.
With the Raven Queen’s emphasis on death being the natural and fated end, how might you see her interactions with maruts? Would she pluck them from Daanvi to guard her fortress of memories or deploy them against those who would cheat death?
Per the 3.5 ECS, maruts are normally found in Dolurrh. Personally I see Dolurrh as being very mechanical in nature (philosophically, not necessarily visually). The process of drawing souls in and processing them isn’t done by hand; normally you don’t get some sort of cosmic judge reviewing your actions, it’s just “Souls come in, rinse, repeat.” I see maruts as being part of that machine—in essence, the antibodies of Dolurrh. If you come in and try to drag a soul out, you’ll have to deal with maruts. And as I called out in City of Stormreach, any time you use resurrection to return someone who isn’t fated to return, there’s a chance you’ll draw the attention of a marut; which is why Jorasco will generally perform an augury before they’ll do a resurrection.
With this in mind, I’d personally say that the Raven Queen DOESN’T employ maruts. I prefer to say that she is living IN the machine, grabbing memories before they’re lost forever, but she’s not actually OPERATING the machine. Largely this is because I prefer her to have to work through mortal agents—be they temporarily mortal shadar-kai, Children of Winter, or player characters—than to have an army of maruts at her disposal.
If one were to utilize the Crucible from Phoenix (specifically the Dhakaani Phoenix strike force version) in Eberron as well, how might the Raven Queen tie in to the Crucible?
If you’re adapting Phoenix to Eberron, you could certainly present the Raven Queen as being the force that created the Crucibles — saving spirits from the dissolution of Dolurrh so they can return as champions. In a sense, this mirrors the 5E concept of the shadar-kai, with the added ideas that power grows with each reincarnation and that they only get seven lives. The main question is how the Phoenixes interact with the Raven Queen. Traditionally, the only being a Phoenix interacts with in the Crucible is their mentor, the spirit of a prior Phoenix of their school. If you chose, you could say that ever mentor is in fact an aspect of the Raven Queen herself.
In Phoenix itself, you don’t have elves or gods. Personally, I’d make the Raven Queen one of the Fallen Folk — a Faeda spirit created to preserve the memories of the dead. Over the ages, she’s built her fortress of memories in the Deep Dusk, and could be a source of information or guidance for Phoenixes.
An icy storm swirls around the Fortress of Frozen Tears. The bitter winds are mirrored by the flurry of activity on the ground. Overseers crack blazing whips, driving the hordes of lemures as they haul siege towers carved from glacial ice. Gelugons perform gruesome sacrifices, harnessing power for the horrific war magics they will soon unleash. The Fortress of Frozen Tears has withstood all enemies for a thousand years. Tonight it will fall into the hands of the Legion of the Long Winter. And tomorrow the Battalion of the Coming Dawn will arrive, beginning a siege that could last for centuries.
Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes (MToF) explores the Blood War, the conflict between devils and demons that plays an important role in the default planescape of Dungeons&Dragons. If it’s in D&D, there’s a place for it in Eberron… so how does the Blood War fit into Eberron?
One obvious answer would seem to be Shavarath, the plane of war. This was essentially the approach that was suggested in the 4E version of Eberron, where Shavarath was presented as a battleground between forces coming from other planes. But it’s not the approach I’d take. As I’ve discussed in other articles—such as my articles on Mabar and the Planes of Hope and Peace—I see the planes as being both iconic and self-contained. Shavarath isn’t *A* war. It embodies the IDEA of war, in all its many aspects. It began at the dawn of time and it will continue as long as reality exists. The beings that fight in it may have the statistics of devils and demons, angels and archons, but they are first and foremost incarnations of war. A Shavaran archon embodies courage, hope, war fought for a just cause and carried out nobly. A Shavaran devil embodies tyranny, cruelty, war fought to conquer and enslave. The lesser spirits of the war fight because they literally can’t conceive of any other existence; they exist as symbols as much as anything else. If you ask them why they are fighting—what point there is to a war that has continued for tens and thousands of years, in which there is clearly no hope of permanent victory—they will tell you that their war is reflected across all realities. They believe that the balance of justice and tyranny, hope and despair, honor and treachery—all of these things are shaped by their battle. If the Long Winter seizes the Fortress of Frozen Tears, the balance of the universe will shift slightly towards tyranny. The celestial soldier knows they can never WIN the war; but they believe that simply by fighting and holding a line, they are maintaining a balance that must be maintained.
So as a general rule, the conflict of Shavarath doesn’t DIRECTLY affect the material plane. The generals aren’t recruiting mortals for the battle, any more than the fiends of Fernia are running around lighting fires in Eberron. It can affect a campaign when a manifest zone or coterminous period causes the endless war to spill into Eberron, when an unusual spirit does go rogue, when a party of adventurers are trapped in the Plane or have to go there to obtain a celestial weapon. But in my mind, it’s not the right match for the Blood War—where you want fiends actively harvesting souls or recruiting mortals, where you could have the possibility of a dramatic upset.
So… if not Shavarath, how would I adapt the Blood War to Eberron? Here’s three ideas.
THE LEGIONS OF KHYBER
In a previous article about the Ghaash’kala, I mention the idea that Khyber is comprised of layers of demiplanes.
The Demon Wastes are peppered with passages to Khyber… not simply the physical underworld, but a host of demiplanes and demonic realms. Fiends emerge from these paths to prey on the weak… and the Ghaash’kala venture into them to find what they need. The Maruk hunt balewolves in the Abyssal Forests of Khar, and wield weapons taken from the corpses of the demon foot soldiers of the Ironlands.
In the past I’ve suggested that these demiplanes would be an excellent place to use archdevils and demon princes—beings weaker than the Overlords, but still mighty enough to rule a domain and command fiendish hordes. Notably, this was my suggestion for incorporating Demogorgon into Eberron in converting the Savage Tide adventure path. Here’s a piece of that conversion…
As spawn of Khyber, the demons of Eberron are not tied to any planar agenda, nor bound to the great war of Shavarath. Instead, they embody Khyber’s wrath and hatred of the world above. They seek to corrupt and destroy the children of Eberron.
And what of the Abyss? Again, it could be grafted onto Shavarath, with each layer being one more battlefield. But it can also be bound to Khyber. Eberron is a magical world, and it does not have to obey the laws of logic. An adventurer who ventures too far beneath the surface of Eberron will be amazed by the horrors that lurk below. A deep cavern can open into the endless maze of Baphomet. A whirlpool can draw unwary travelers into the abyssal ocean. Many people think Xen’drik is the ultimate destination for the pulp adventurer. But the most exotic and terrifying realms are not across the water; they lie beneath it, in the very heart of the Dragon Below. While these are not outer planes, they exist beyond normal space and cannot be reached by normal forms of teleportation; travelers must either find the proper path between the realms or employ planar magic to step into these demiplanes.
So: the Blood War could exist exactly as presented, fought between demon and devil… but fought within Khyber itself. The River Styx is a portal that connects these demiplanes. Just as the Silver Flame holds the Overlords at bay, it prevents this evil from spilling out into the world en masse. It could be that it’s always been possible for a few of the fiends to venture out and seek aid among the mortal world, but if it was ME, I’d say that this is a recent thing—that the Mourning fundamentally shook up the mystical balance of the world, and it is only in the last four years that these fiends have been able to send agents into Eberron. The advantage this has is that they aren’t simply continuing to do what they’ve been doing for tens of thousands of years: this is both a new opportunity for the fiends and a new threat to Eberron. The fiends themselves are still figuring out what they can do with mortals and mortal souls. This is a new threat that’s not recorded in the Library of Korranberg, one even the Chamber knows little about. The greatest experts would likely be the Ghaash’kala, who have encountered the Blood War in their expeditions into Khyber. This allows the goals of the fiends to be mysterious and the player characters to be on the tipping point of figuring things out… and to have it be something that ALL the powers of Eberron are concerned about.
STRANGERS ON A PLANE
A twist on this is to have the Blood War be the same Blood War encountered elsewhere, but to have it only just spilling into Eberron. The cosmology of Eberron is self-contained, with the planes surrounding the material in its own corner of the Astral. One possibility is that the Progenitors intentionally created Eberron in isolation from the rest of the multiverse; it could even be that the Ring of Siberys actively blocks contact to or from other realities. If this is the case, this protection could finally be fading… allowing forces from the broader multiverse to touch Eberron.
This keeps the same basic concept as mentioned above: the idea of the Blood War being an entirely new threat that the powers of Eberron know little about. It’s primarily useful if you WANT to have traffic between Eberron and other settings; now there’s a path, but it’s an extremely dangerous one. It’s not the route I’d personally take, but it could be interesting.
What if the Blood War was being fought in the Mournland? This could be a variation of either of the two previous ideas; the Mourning could have opened a breach into Khyber, causing the conflict to spill into the world in the Mournland. On the other hand, this could be an opportunity to dramatically reduce the SCALE of the Blood War, but have it be a new and ongoing thing. The demons and devils were literally brought into existence with the Mourning; they might even be formed from the souls of humans caught in the Mourning and transformed. If this is the case, the archfiends could themselves have once been mortals, possibly generals from the Last War itself. What if Zuggtmoy was the horribly transformed Queen Dannel of Cyre?
If we do the “strangers on a plane” route, how would you approach the planes of Eberron? As the actual moons, or related to them in a specific way? Demiplanes made by the progenitors?
There’s definitely a relationship between the moons and the planes, but I personally wouldn’t say that the moons ARE the planes. With that said, let’s take a quick look at the original Eberron Campaign Setting and what it says about cosmology.
Eberron spins within its own Material Plane, enfolded by three coexistent transitive planes: the Astral Plane, the Ethereal Plane, and the Plane of Shadow, just as in the core D&D cosmology (see Chapter 5 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide). Within Eberron’s Astral Plane, thirteen planes revolve in a complex orbit around the Material Plane. These planes are a combination of features of Inner Planes and Outer Planes…
I see Eberron as its own pocket of creation. Each plane is an isolated concept; a layer of reality embodying a particular idea. The material plane is the nexus where all these come together: a place of life and death, war and peace, light and darkness. I see “orbit” as a metaphorical concept, reflecting the fact that the planes move into and out of alignment with the material. I’ve never actually played Spelljammer, so I don’t know how this concept meshes there, but to me, think of Eberron as a galaxy surrounded by a vast void, but in this case the void is astral. If you can find a way across that vast void, perhaps you can find another galaxy. PERSONALLY, I’m not interested in mixing settings; but from the very beginning it was suggested that the way to do it would be to slip through the Plane of Shadow.
I would also say that Eberron’s equivalent of the blood war was it’s creation, Siberys and Khyber’s fight, whether allegory or literal.
It’s an interesting approach, but in my opinion it doesn’t really fit the Blood War… at least following the classical mythology. Part of the point of the Blood War—and a reason I don’t map it to Shavarath—is that it’s specifically a conflict of evil fighting evil. As decent people we don’t identify with EITHER side. If you make it a fight between good and evil, heroes have a reason to WANT to take part; as is, it’s just a bloody mess of a war between two equally unpleasant factions. Beyond that, looking to the metaphorical conflict of the Progenitors, the fight between Khyber and Siberys is OVER, and Siberys lost. The conflict between Eberron and Khyber continues, but it’s a passive struggle: Eberron can’t defeat Khyber, but Khyber can’t escape from Eberron.
I’m not very familiar with the concept of Blood War… but couldn’t the Mourning be caused by the Blood War itself?
If you WANT it to be, sure. You could say that some sort of dramatic action in the Blood War caused it to spill out into Cyre and triggered the Mourning. Personally, I prefer to have the Mourning be in some way related to the Last War—whether directly caused by it, or the result of Cannith testing weapons, or others tampering with dangerous forces to try to create an edge—than to say that it just randomly happened to occur while the war was going on. But it’s certainly an approach you could take if you wanted.
Some planes have a deep impact on eberron. Some of the main villains come from outer plains: Xoriat, Khyber, Dal Quor. How would you use Shavarath if you want it to have a bigger impact on your campaign?
The main issue is that you need a REASON for the beings of the plane to take an interest in Eberron. The Quori interest is directly tied to their survival, due to the Turning of the Age. The Daelkyr are largely depicted as explorers and artists… and we’ve called out a number of times that they aren’t the most powered spirits of Xoriat, they’re simply the ones that have taken an interest in other realms. So you COULD have an expeditionary force from Shavarath conducting military operations in Eberron, but the question is why now? Why are they suddenly taking an interest when they never have before?
The most logical answer to the question is the event that defines the age: The Mourning. Whatever caused it, you could say that the Mourning caused some sort of tear between Eberron and Shavarath. Perhaps Shavarath is literally bleeding into Eberron and will continue to do so unless the Mourning is undone. While this could occur in the Mournland itself, it would be more dramatic if this “bleed” occurred in random places around Khorvaire. The Fortress of Frozen Tears is superimposed onto one of the towers of Sharn, and now a legion of devils are assaulting it; can the PCs find a way to break the alignment before everyone dies?
That’s just one idea, but really the possibilities are infinite. Pursuit of a deserter. Planar convergence. “We had to seize reality to save it.” I’d just want to know WHO is leading the incursion; WHY it’s happening now when it hasn’t happened before; and WHAT their objective is.
Can you share a small sample list of the names and titles of prominent demons, devils, and archons on Shavarath? Just like two or three of each?
Personally, I tend to focus on titles rather than names. Aside from the idea of names having power, the position is eternal even if the specific spirit that holds it changes. Title meanwhile we be a reflection of the aspect of war that the spirit embodies. Here’s a few entirely random ideas.
Archons: The Last Bastion, The Sword of Hope, The Pillar of Justice
Devils: The Fourth Dominion, The Bringer of Chains, The End of Hope
Demons: The First Terror, The Gray Butcher, The Bloody Tide
All of these would go along with a direct title. So a full name would be something like Malecarius, Bringer of Chains, First Lord of the Legion of Winter. Meanwhile, a rank and file soldier would be Fifth Spear, Third Cohort, Battalion of the Coming Dawn.
How would you describe a typical landscape in Shavarath that does not involve archons, demons or devils in constant fight? Something that you could explore? Or, perhaps, you see Shavarath more as a contiguous landscape rather than a cluster of layers of reality?
Some of regions described in the Blood War section seem to map pretty well to various actual planes: Stygia/Risia, Phlegos/Fernia, Cania/Irian. What do you think about using those various sections as sections of those planes where relevant?
I’m answering these together because they are reflections of one another. As with the other planes, I don’t see Shavarath as a single contiguous landscape. I see it as being layers, each reflecting a different aspect of war and conflict. The environment that surrounds those conflicts can be extremely varied, because war is extremely varied. Look to the paragraph I wrote at the start of this article; it presents an icy tower buffeted by bitter winds. To me, this is an eternal reflection of a siege in a long winter, a battle in which the weather itself takes a toll on both sides. Which is to say that you don’t have to actually go to Risia to have a battlefield in Shavarath that is brutally cold. Essentially, the question to me is what the most defining aspect of the situation is. If this is a movie, is the focus of the movie on the ice and winter? If so, you might be in Risia. But if the focus is the SIEGE, and the ice and winter is something that adds flavor to this particular siege and differentiates it from a hundred others, then you’re in Shavarath; the fact that this is the endless winter siege is important, but still secondary.
In regards to what else is out there, in Shavarath everything is going to in some way be connected to a battle. It’s not that every square foot is occupied by fiends and celestials in direct conflict. But if you don’t have that direct conflict, you’re going to have a maze of trenches that lies between battlelines, or a vast field strewn with mangled corpses and the wreckage of siege machines, or fire pits where lemure slaves toil endlessly forging weapons. If the situation doesn’t involve an actual battle, it deals with the aftermath of one or the build-up of it. So what could you explore? You could be thrown into the trenches, trying to find your way out or find someone else lost somewhere in this maze. You could need something that’s in one of the many fortresses. You could come across a small village where people are pinned down by an arcane sniper. Essentially, if you can imagine a location as a scene in a war movie—regardless of whether there’s actively war—then it could be a place in Shavarath.
I’m going to stop here, but feel free to add your questions and thoughts about the Blood War and Shavarath below. Next week I’ll share my thoughts on the Raven Queen in Eberron. As always, thanks to my Patreon supporters, who make it possible for me to spend time on this blog!
Sorcerers carry a magical birthright conferred upon them by an exotic bloodline, some otherworldly influence, or exposure to unknown cosmic forces. One can’t study sorcery as one learns a language, any more than one can learn to live a legendary life. No one chooses sorcery; the power chooses the sorcerer.
— 5E Player’s Handbook
Wizards and artificers approach magic as a science. A warlock makes a bargain to gain arcane power. Magic is part of a sorcerer. It’s possible to inherit such power, but as the PHB suggests, it could just as easily be something entirely unique to the character. Later in this article I’ll discuss sorcerous origins tied to Eberron. But first, let’s consider what magic means for a sorcerer.
Manifestations of Magic
You’re a sorcerer. Your magic is a part of you. But it is still arcane magic… and at the end of the day, when you use that power you are still casting a spell. Unless you use the Subtle Spell metamagic feature, your sorcerer spells require all the same components—verbal, somatic, and material—as when a wizard casts that spell. In some ways this seems to clash with the whole idea of being a sorcerer. If your ability to cast a fireball comes from your draconic heritage, why do you still need to speak a word of power and throw a ball of bat guano to make it work?
One way to think about this is that arcane magic is a science… that as a sorcerer, the principles of magic come to you by instinct, but you ARE still casting a spell in the same way that a wizard is. But this doesn’t work with a lot of different character concepts. So let’s take a look at each of the different sorts of components and think about what they may mean for a sorcerer.
Verbal components require the character to make a sound. Per the PHB a “particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the threads of magic in motion.” In my mind, a verbal component needs to be clearly connected to a casting oa spell: it can’t be something that could be mistaken for conversation. With that said, I feel that the exact form can vary from class to class and character to character. For example, I could see any of the following as being verbal components for a fireball.
- A forceful phrase (“Consuming flames!”) in a variant of Abyssal or Draconic. The words feel hot in the ears of anyone who hears them. While this is in a language, it’s the thought behind it that triggers this searing effect; you don’t actually burn people or convey this power when casually speaking in Draconic.
- A series of syllables that might feel like they’re based on Abyssal, Draconic, Giant, or Elvish (“Talash zash harkala!”), but that don’t form any actual words in those languages. This is the “machine code” of reality, triggering access to the forces the wizard channels in the rest of the spells.
- An invocation of specific forces that will be channeled to power the spell. A divine caster might specifically call on an individual (“Dol Arrah, let your searing light lay my enemies low!”), while an arcane caster might invoke a power source, such as one of the eternal firepits of Fernia or the blade storms of Shavarath. On the other hand, a Warlock could specifically call on their patron by name.
- A straightforward but clear description of the effect you are trying to create (“Let my fiery lash burn you to ash!”).
- A bard might sing a song to cast a spell—but as with the first example, the song should feel clearly magical (unless Subtle Spell is used). As the words are spoken they might take shape in the air, or echo in the ears, or otherwise feel like there is a power behind them.
- This would be a place to work in naming. Perhaps your sorcerer innately sees the true names of things, and you call out that name and an effect.
The point being: You could be syllables infused with arcane might to channel power into your spell. You could be naming powerful entities or cosmic forces whose power produces your effect. You could simply describe exactly what you want to have happen to your victims, essentially making a demand the universe will obey. But whatever it is, if you’re casting spells with verbal components, you’re producing sounds that are clearly tied to the magical effects you produce… so what are those sounds?
Somatic components are gestures involved with the spell. Per the PHB, the most critical detail is that “the caster must have a free hand to perform these gestures.” Like verbal components, a requirement I apply is that it must be obvious that the hand gestures are tied to the spell. Someone watching you understands that there is a purpose to your gestures and that if they immobilized you, you would stop. So what forms can somatic gestures take?
- As a wizard, you could follow the model of the recent Doctor Strange—tracing patterns of energy in the air, essentially drawing glyphs or writing out an arcane formula.
- Taking away the lightshow, it can still be about precise hand and finger movements that trigger and focus mystical energy.
- On the other hand, you could combine both these things without any finesse. You need a free hand and it needs to be clear that you’re using that hand to cast a spell. You could simply conjure a ball of fire that you physically throw at your enemy… or dramatically point at them, at which point the fireball emerges from your palm.
- Another option is the Harry Potter approach: the wand. According to the PHB, the hand you use to access an arcane focus can be the same hand you use to perform somatic components. To me, this implies that my gestures could simply be some fancy wand-work. Again, the critical things are that it requires a hand and that it’s clear I’m using that hand to cast a spell.
- If someone’s playing a warforged sorcerer, I’d be fine with them stating “Activate artillery mode” (verbal component) and turning their hand into a cannon (somatic component)—as long as it’s understood that they require freedom of movement to do this.
So again: the point is that you require a free hand and that it is obvious to an observer that you’re using that hand to produce a magical effect. But as long as those two conditions are met, you’ve got some room to move.
Material components fall back into the realm of “If my sorcerer isn’t performing magic like a wizard, while do I still need a ball of bat guano to cast my spell?” Once again, it’s worth taking a moment to think about the impact of material components. Free material components—like the ball of guano—are primarily important because they can be taken away. If you’re trapped in a cell, whether you’re a sorcerer or a wizard, there’s an easy way for them to stop you from casting a fireball. Expensive material components—like the 100 gp pearl required to cast identify—prevent you from casting the spell casually, especially at low levels.
Starting with free components, it’s worth noting that you can ignore free components if you are holding a spellcasting focus (holy symbol, wand, rod, orb, etc) or if you have a component pouch. Personally, if these conditions are met, I’m entirely fine with a player either defining a unique arcane focus or changing what’s IN the component pouch. So looking at examples…
- A component pouch is a great way to define a unified set of components that fit your presentation of magic. Perhaps you perform sympathetic magic, creating a model of your victim and the effect you’re producing. Maybe you have a set of crystals, and you combine the crystals in different ways for different effects (“Fireball? I’ll need a sliver of Fernian basalt amplified with the Irianic lens”). Perhaps you literally assemble a wand tied to the specific effect you want to produce. If you want to get weird about it, you could have a component pouch full of liquids… you assemble a one-use potion from the pouch, drink it (somatic component) and then belch out the spell effect (verbal component). As a warforged sorcerer, I could have a pouch filled with little mini-wands that I attach to my hand. The critical point here is that the component pouch is a set of tools: what do your tools look like?
- A spellcasting focus needs to cost between 5-25 GP to replace. It needs to be something that is clearly associated with the spell when it is cast. It can’t be used for another purpose (IE it can’t be a useable weapon unless your class gives you that option) and it requires a free hand to use. But personally, as long as all those conditions are met, I’m fine with that being unique to the character. A few exotic ideas for a spellcasting focus…
- The rune-engraved skull of an ancestor. This could be a wand carved from an ancestor’s bone, or something similar.
- The polished horn of a beast—either something I hunted and killed, or a creature that was close to me. A Talenta caster could use the fang of a former dinosaur mount.
- An exotic mask I hold in front of my face.
- A strange machine I’ve assembled myself.
With any unique or exotic focus, there’s two critical questions. How can you replace it? If you lose your grandfather’s skull, how do you get a new one? Normally, a player can simply go to the store in a big city and buy a new focus, so the point to me is that I’d allow a player with time and money to replace a lost focus, regardless of the form. Perhaps you can perform a ritual that reconstitutes your grandfather’s skull—it’s just that the ritual takes components that cost 10 gp, the same cost as buying a wand. Second: can you perform magic using the standard components? Normally, a wizard can use a wand or component pouch to cast a fireball, but if they lose the focus, they can whip up a ball of bat guano. Can use use guano in an emergency?
The final topic is expensive components. Chromatic orb requires a diamond worth 50 gp. It doesn’t matter what kind of a caster you are, you need that diamond. Personally, the only thing I generally care about is the cost. I’m fine with the idea that chromatic orb requires a unique focus that costs 50 gp and is only used for this one spell, but I don’t personally care if it’s something that is likewise unique to the way your character performs magic. Likewise, in my Eberron, Eberron dragonshards can take the place of any expensive component. Whether it’s the 5,000 gp cost of resurrection or the 100 gp cost of identify, that amount of refined dragonshards will do the trick; this emphasizes the idea that dragonshards are the basic fuel of the magical economy. The only reason I’d restrict a spell to a concretely specific component is if I want to play up a particular region or individual as having a monopoly on that resource… if diamonds are consistently a thing, who has the diamonds? In Eberron, this is the role of Eberron dragonshards, which is why Q’barra and House Tharashk are important.
So putting all of this together, the question is: whether you’re a wizard or a sorcerer, what form does your magic take? Does your sorcerer have a magic musket with components they swap out (IE, exotic component pouch)? Do you carry around your grandfather’s skull (focus), hold it up (somatic) and ask it to produce magical effects (verbal)? Do you have henna tattoos (focus, as long as they can be removed) that you trace with a finger (somatic) while reciting words you learned in a dream (verbal)? If your power comes from exposure to the Mourning, do you wave (somatic) a piece of your house from Cyre (focus) while calling out the names of your friends who died (verbal)? You can have a unique style… but you need to figure out how it meets the requirements of casting a spell.
Sorcerers in Eberron
So: this is an article about sorcerers, remember? While the previous section could apply to all sorts of casters, the point is to think about how your sorcerous origin is reflected in the way that you cast magic. With that said, I’m just going to dive in and look at some possible ways to justify sorcerers in Eberron.
Child of Khyber
Sorcerous Origin: Any
Aberrant dragonmarks are an unpredictable and dangerous form of dragonmark. For many centuries the aberrant marks that have been seen have been limited in power… but in the days of the War of the Mark, the Children of Khyber wielded marks that could destroy cities. You could justify your sorcerous powers as being tied to an aberrant dragonmark, with that mark growing in both size and power as your level increases.
Now: aberrant dragonmarks are specifically called out as being dangerous—channeling destructive or aggressive powers. This is your character, so this is a limitation you’re applying to yourself; but if you want to fit the IDEA of the mark, you should limit your spell selection to powers that fit this vision. You could play a divine soul as a character with an aberrant mark, but if so, you shouldn’t be using it to produce healing effects. One way to handle this is to suggest that you are essentially a crappy wizard or magewright who ALSO has an aberrant mark. So your one or two NON-aggressive spells are the spells you cast in a traditional arcane manner… and the aggressive spells are the ones tied to your mark. This also ties to the idea that an aberrant dragonmark is supposed to be a burden to its bearer, either mentally or physically. The mark could cause you pain every time you use it. It could be an effort for you to contain its power and to keep from accidentally hurting the people around you. It could whisper to you. None of these things have concrete mechanical effects; this is all about flavor and how you choose to present it. You are amazingly tough and focused and you overcome these things; but if it’s an aberrant mark, you want to keep the story idea that it is a burden.
Aberrant marks take many forms, as long as they are aggressive in nature. As a result, you could tie this to any sorcerous origin. If you justify your draconic bloodline with an aberrant mark, you aren’t ACTUALLY descended from a dragon… and the effects of your draconic bloodline could take other forms. Draconic bloodline provides you with high AC and resistance to a particular damage type. It could be that your mark actually acts as armor and absorbs the damage; the mark could even extend from your body in the form of wings. But it could also be that the mark is mutating your body in a disturbing way.
The secondary issue here is components. Your power is supposedly coming from your mark… and yet, you still need those components! One approach is to say that your mark extends to one of your hands, and you have to point that hand at the target to perform somatic components. For material components, you could use a “crystal” arcane focus—in your case, a Khyber dragonshard that amplifies the power of the mark. Which just leaves verbal components. Perhaps you shout arcane syllables that come to your mind unbidden. Perhaps you have to tell the mark what you want it to do. The critical point is it needs to be clear that you have to be able to speak, and that your words are tied to the effect.
Sorcerous Origin: Divine Soul (duh)
A divine soul casts clerical magic as a sorcerer. What does that mean? Well, first of all, it doesn’t HAVE to be connected to a divine source. It could simply be that you have an aberrant dragonmark that produces traditionally clerical effects, or that you have an exceptional Mark of Healing; these are covered by my other suggestions.
But what if you DO have a connection to a divine power source? What does that mean? How does it work?
There’s a few paths I could see. First of all, the idea in Eberron is that we don’t know for certain that the gods exist. But we know that divine power sources exist. And people do have divine visions and such. So: as a divine soul, you have a connection to a divine power source. One option is that you’re hacking this power. You don’t BELIEVE in the religion; you’ve just figured out how to use arcane techniques to connect to the Undying Court or the Silver Flame and draw on its power. The power is unquestionably there, and it’s not like your using a bit of it will somehow drain the Silver Flame. Such a character could be a bit of a smug jerk—in your face, people of faith! The question would be how people OF that faith would feel about you. Your actions might not actually threaten to drain with Undying Court of its power, but that won’t stop the Deathguard from kicking your @$$ if they ever come across you.
A second path is that you have faith, you simply don’t know the rituals normally associated with it. You have connected to the Silver Flame in a weird and unique way, but you still understand what the Silver Flame is all about. You acknowledge it as the source of your power and invoke it in your verbal components, and you may use a holy symbol as your spellcasting focus. You’re NOT a cleric, but you are a person of faith.
A path that lies between these is that of the chosen one. You know nothing about the divine. You don’t know where your powers come from. And yet, you have visions that are driving you on your quest. The power has chosen YOU… but you don’t know why. Imagine your power comes from the Silver Flame. You don’t know this. You don’t believe in the Flame. But you have visions of yourself fighting supernatural evil. Perhaps a couatl whispers to you. Essentially, the Flame believes in YOU, and seems to have a purpose for you. Will you discover faith along the way? Or are you just a vessel? In this case, verbal and somatic components could be confused invocation (“Um, strange power, can you help my friend?”), or it could be that they come to you instinctively; you never know what you’re going to say when you open your mouth, but the words just come out.
Sorcerous Origin: Draconic Bloodline (duh)
So what if you WANT a draconic bloodline? There’s nothing wrong with that; dragons exist in Eberron and are a source of powerful magic. In standard Eberron, draconic bloodlines aren’t a defined thing. The primary magical bloodlines in the world are the Dragonmarked Houses. But there’s a few ways to do it. Perhaps you are part of a noble house that claims draconic heritage; I’d just be inclined to say that it’s very rare for a member of the family do develop powers beyond those of a first or second level sorcerer. Perhaps you’re a first generation draconic bloodline; which of your parents was a dragon, and what does it mean? Or perhaps you’re not LITERALLY descended from dragons, but rather the result of a Vadalis experiment that attempted to infuse humans with dragon’s blood. Are you the only success out of this program, or are there a number of dragon-blood super-soldiers out in the world? Are you working with House Vadalis, or are you a fugitive?
As a dragon-blooded sorcerer, you still run into the “What does my magic look like?” question. When you perform verbal components, do you instinctively speak draconic words of power? Or is it that the magic is in your blood, and you’ve jury-rigged some sort of spell system that lets you unleash it?
Sorcerous Origin: Divine Soul, Storm Sorcery, Shadow Magic
Along the same lines as an aberrant mark, if you’re of the proper race and bloodline to have a dragonmark, you can say that your unusually strong connection to your dragonmark is the source of your sorcerous abilities. Essentially, it’s clear that you have the potential to develop a Siberys Dragonmark, but rather than it manifesting all at once, it is emerging over time. A halfling divine soul with healing abilities could attribute the power to the Mark of Healing; a Phiarlan or Thuranni elf could have access to shadow magic; a Lyrandar heir could be a storm sorcerer. Like the Child of Khyber, you’re entirely on the honor system to choose spells that make sense with your mark. Or, like I suggest for the Child of Khyber, you could present yourself as a minor wizard or general sorcerer who ALSO has a powerful mark—so the spells that don’t fit with your Dragonmark are tied to this secondary path. A Siberys dragonshard would be a logical spellcasting focus, but you could also have an object that incorporates a Siberys shard—a tool designed by your house to channel this sort of power.
Sorcerous Origin: Any
Like a wizard, an artificer approaches magic in a scientific manner. But what if they didn’t? What if they create magic items that should never actually work, yet somehow do? The point with this character would be to present all of their magic as coming from strange devices that they create. From a mechanical perspective, they’d have a component pouch—but that pouch would be filled with lint, shards of broken glass, and so on. Part of the concept—what differentiates this character from an actual artificer—is for their explanations of their magic to make no sense. “We just saw three doves in the sky. So if I pour the yoke of this dove egg on this magnifying lens, it will triple its ability to focus the light of the sun and create a deadly beam of heat. Simplicity itself!”
The mad artificer could follow any path, representing their “arcane field of study.” A draconic bloodline sorcerer who follows this path would “artifice” as an explanation for the benefits of the class. Their natural armor could be the result of mystical tattoos that channel a low-grade repulsion field; their dragon wings would be an Icarus-like set of artifical wings.
Sorcerous Origin: Any
Manifest zones are places where the energies of the planes flow into Eberron. A character born in a manifest zone could justify their magical abilities as being based on an innate bond to that plane. A character with an innate connection to Mabar could possess shadow magic. Irian could grant the powers of a divine soul. Kythri or Thelanis could be a source of wild magic. As with other examples, you’d either need to voluntarily limit your magic to powers tied to your plane of choice, or come up with an explanation for where your other spells come from. Alternately, you could play a character who’s found a way to channel the energies of different planes—a form of the mad artificer, using spells that open up temporary portals to the planes you need. This would fit with the idea of verbal components calling out specific sources of extraplanar power, or material components tied to artifacts from the planes in question.
Sorcerous Origin: Any
In the City of Stormreach sourcebook we present a gang of people who survived the Mourning and emerged with strange arcane powers. While you could use this as the explanation for any sort of ability, it’s generally tied to the idea of disturbing abilities, not unlike the Child of Khyber. It could be that the Mourning is now a part of you, and you unleash its powers on your enemies. A Mourborn sorcerer with a “draconic bloodline” could be twisted into a monstrous shape. Or it could be that your magic has a secondary connection to the Mourning: you were the only survivor of your family, and now the spirits of those slain in the Mourning cling to you… demanding vengeance, but granting you the power you need to take that vengeance. This could be the sorcerer whose material focus is the bones of fallen friends, whose verbal components involve calling on them for aid.
This is a deep as I can go in the time I have available, but there’s many other possibilities.
- The warforged created as a “walking wand.”
- A changeling who weaves glyphs and mystic sigils into their skin.
- A Vadalis experiment, magebred to harness mystical power.
- A creation of the daelkyr.
- An Aundairian duelist who specializes in wandcraft
… and so on!
I recall that in the Eberron setting dragons do not mingle freely with mortals. There’s the entire tragedy with Erandis Vol’s parents marking her status as a half dragon something unique. So how is draconic ancestry justified for a PC? Wouldn’t the dragons of Argonessen have hunted down their entire bloodline ages ago?
The line of Vol wasn’t exterminated because of half-dragons; it was exterminated because Erandis Vol developed an apex Dragonmark, something that was likely only possible because she was a half-dragon.
The issue with dragons not mingling freely with normal races is because in a dragon you have a being that can live for thousands of years, who possesses tremendous physical and magical power and a civilization that is tens of thousands years old and has a deeper understanding of reality than most races… and then you have a human. Humans and other standard races are literally like housepets to dragons: The don’t live very long, they aren’t as smart as we are, it’s kind of cute when they act like they think they’re dragons. You might feel affection for one, but the idea of actually producing some sort of CHILD with one is simply bizarre. It’s not that the child has to be hunted down; it’s a question of WHO WOULD DO THAT? The only particularly logical reason is if it’s necessary to pursue a particular path of the Prophecy, or to achieve a specific end that absolutely requires it—both of which were the case with Erandis Vol.
So on the one hand, I suggest that you might have first-generation dragonic heritage; this would mean that you were created for a specific reason, and your draconic parent likely has an agenda involving you. On the other hand, I suggested that you might be part of a family that claims to have draconic heritage; odds are good that they’re mistaken. Either way, it definitely wouldn’t be a common thing, but neither is it something requiring immediate extermination.
Also, how common is it for celestials to mingle with humanoids in Eberron? Is it common (or at least, known to be possible) for a divine soul sorcerer to obtain their powers from celestial ancestry?
It depends what you mean by “mingle.” Celestials almost never casually interact with mortals. When they are encountered, it’s worth noting that immortals in Eberron don’t reproduce; there’s a finite number of them, and when one dies, the energy reforms to create a replacement. So if you’re suggesting that a celestial sires a child, it would be very unusual. On the other hand, what I suggested with aasimars is that the mortal is touched by or connected to an immortal. So the divine soul wouldn’t literally be the physical child of an immortal, but if there was a purpose for it, some celestial could have marked the child in the womb, or even worked magic to cause it to be born. But again, such things are extremely rare.
Do you consider spells to be discrete things that can be recognized? Like if an Aberrant Marked Sorcerer uses Burning Hands and a classically trained wizard cast the same spell would trained observers know they were both using “Burning Hands as isolated by Bob the Pyromaniac in year 1082…” or would they just notice bursts of flame that are superficially similar?
It’s a little hard to say. I would allow an observer trained in Arcana an opportunity to identify the spell being cast (“That’s burning hands“). But no, they aren’t doing the same thing. If a divine soul tied to the Silver Flame casts burning hands, I’d probably make the flames silvery. If an Child of Khyber does it, they might actually project dragonmark-like tendrils of energy from their skin… even if I said those tendrils inflicted fire damage. Meanwhile, I’d personally allow a Storm Sorcerer to learn a version of burning hands that inflicts lightning damage instead of fire damage, but otherwise behaves the same. So the common spells are essentially benchmarks of common effects that can be produced with magical energy, and what the Arcana check ACTUALLY tells you is “They just generated a 15-foot cone of fire, inflicting a base of 3d6 damage.”
So it’s not that the spell is literally recognized because it’s the exact same spell; it’s that the trained observer can identify and evaluate the effects. With that said, an Arcana expert could potentially identify the technique—so “That’s burning hands, and they learned it from the Arcane Congress” or “That’s burning hands, but they’ve got no magical technique whatsoever; they’re just ripping open a portal to Fernia and spilling it out.”
To elaborate a little on my question about spells as discrete things, I meant along the lines of Burning Hands being like electron energy levels, a basic part of reality, or like steel, contingent convergences of simpler natural principles.
Good way to distinguish! To me it’s like steel. We recognize the end result, but they’re achieving it in different ways with a range of cosmetic effects.
Do you see Dragons, and other “natural sorcerers” as all being the same where their magic is concerned? At least along species lines.
If a species possesses natural sorcery—like 3.5 dragons, who universally gain sorcerer ability over time—then I usually depict that as taking the same form. So you wouldn’t have one dragon who’s a divine soul and another one with “draconic ancestry.” With that said, some 3.5 dragons have class levels in addition to their natural powers. And if you had another species with innate sorcerer levels I might present that in a different way.
What have YOU done with sorcerers or arcane components? If you have questions or ideas, share them below. As always, thanks to my Patreon backers, who make this website possible!