Dark Six: The Mockery

The principles of the Sovereigns are the cornerstone of our civilization. Boldrei brings us together. Aureon’s laws allow us to coexist in peace. When peace is not an option, Dol Dorn gives us the strength to defend ourselves, and Dol Arrah teaches us to use that strength wisely and with compassion. Why should the strong protect the weak? Why spare civilians and fallen foes? Because if we all live by those principles, we all prosper. War isn’t just about victory—it’s about being able to live with the aftermath. —Phthaso Mogan, Sovereign priest of Sharn

‘Why should the strong protect the weak?’ It’s a question posed by those who wish you to believe that they are strong and you are weak, that you would be helpless without them. These are the words of people who only know one way to play the game of war, and who are desperate for you to play by the same rules. Our lord shows the truth: the strong protect the weak because they don’t want the ‘weak’ to realize how strong they can be. Imagine a hundred hounds pursuing two wolves. The hounds call out, challenging the wolves to face them in honorable combat. The brave wolf turns and fights beneath the bright sun, and they are torn into a hundred pieces. The wise wolf knows a simple truth: I cannot beat them at once, but in the shadows my teeth are as sharp as any of theirs. Every night, the wolf comes with the shadows and kills one of the hounds. The hounds may curse the wolf for his cowardly, dishonorable actions… but in a hundred days, the wolf stands triumphant. Which wolf are you? Will you fight in the sunlight, and die with honor? Or will you follow the path that leads to victory, even if it leads you through shadows?” —’RedbladeRrac, of the Deathsgate Adventurer’s Guild

In the first age of the world, three siblings challenged the Lord of Death. They rallied their forces, and swore to meet Death on the battlefield at dawn. When Death came with his army of corpses, the eldest brother was nowhere to be seen; he lacked the courage to face this dreadful foe. The mortal soldiers quaked, seeing comrades who had fallen in battle now serving in the army of the dead. But the young brother filled them with courage and inspired them with his strength, scattering the forces of the dead. And the sister called on the light of the sun, blinding Death until her soldiers could safely retreat. Though the battle was lost, the champions were able to save most of their soldiers. They learned that their elder brother had used the distraction to steal a great treasure from the Citadel of the Dead, caring more for his personal enrichment than for the lives of his siblings, their soldiers, or his own oath.

This is the story of the Mockery. It can be found in many forms across many cultures, and the details are always different. In some versions of the story, it is Aureon who orders that the Mockery be stripped of both his name and his skin, his truth laid bare for the world to see. But in the Cazhaak myth, the elder brother fools his siblings by shedding his skin and using it as a decoy; going forward, he often strips the skin off his enemies and wears it to fool their friends. Likewise, the reason for the Mockery’s betrayal also varies. In the common story, the Mockery betrays his siblings due to cowardice and envy, further using the opportunity to enrich himself. The implication is that if he had bravely stood with his siblings, Death could have been defeated. But the annals of the Three Faces of War say that Dol Azur believed the battle to be a fool’s errand from the beginning, asserting that it wasn’t possible to defeat Death; rather than fighting a battle that couldn’t be won just because he’d sworn an oath to do so, Dol Azur used the distraction to steal a mighty weapon from the enemy’s citadel. So his action was unquestionably a dishonorable betrayal; but he also accomplished a tactically significant objective, rather than fighting an “honorable” fight that couldn’t be won.

Such shifting interpretations are common with the Sovereigns and Six, reflecting the values of the cultures and individuals who worship or revile them. Within Khorvaire, there are three common approaches to the Mockery. The common Vassals blame him for the excesses of war and for cruel betrayal. Some emulate him, seeking to earn his favor through acts of cruelty. And others see him not as the Lord of Betrayal, but as the Sovereign of Victory—a deity who can always show you the way to overcome your enemies, even if it is a dark path.

Bloodshed and Betrayal

The Vassals of the Pyrinean Creed believe that the Sovereigns act through mortals, that they guide us and inspire us. Onatar doesn’t craft a sword; he guides the mortal smith, and if the smith listens she will forge a finer blade. Dol Dorn is a source of strength each soldier can find within, a whisper of courage in the darkest moments. For the Vassals, the Dark Six explains the darker impulses of mortals. The Keeper inflames our greed, whispering to us of the things that could be ours. The Fury overwhelms us with anger and passion. And the Mockery urges us to be cruel—to revel the suffering of others and our power to inflict it. The Mockery scoffs at courage and honor, telling us that all that matters is survival and victory, no matter the cost. It’s Boldrei who tells us we’re stronger as a community, Aureon who teaches that laws can benefit us all; the Mockery urges us to place our own needs above anything else, to see others solely as tools to be used. So under the Pyrinean Creed, the Mockery and others of the Dark Six inspire our base instincts; the Sovereigns show us how to be better, and how to prosper as a community.

With this in mind, the Mockery covers two distinct spheres, as called out in his title of bloodshed and betrayal. On one level he is a WAR god—specifically calling out all the darkest elements of conflict and combat. Bloodlust, unnecessary cruelty, dishonorable strategies; all of these are tied to the Mockery. But the Mockery isn’t confined to the battlefield. The assassin who kills without warning, the bully who beats smaller children—these two are guided by the Mockery. Any time blood is shed in cowardly or cruel ways, the Mockery smiles. The Fury inspires rage, the Keeper drives greed, but when the actual blade is drawn it’s the Mockery who guides the hand of the murderer. Beyond bloodshed, the Mockery also delights in betrayal. He takes the greatest pleasure when the betrayal runs deep—a sibling betraying a sibling, a lover turning on their paramour. But on the simplest level, this aspect of the Mockery is tied to deception with the intent to cause pain to others. The Traveler also delights in deception, but the Traveler is the Sovereign of chaos and change. The Mockery uses deception in the pursuit of pain. So the changeling grifter may see the Traveler as their patron, but the assassin who uses disguise self to get close to their victim is guided by the Mockery.

Among Vassals, the Mockery is primarily seen as an explanation for cruelty in the world. Virtuous Vassals never offer prayers to the Mockery; they pity the brutal people who are swayed by his whispers and drawn down cruel and criminal paths. Those who actively revere the Mockery in this aspect are people who willfully embrace a dark path and acknowledge their actions as selfish and cruel. A King’s Dark Lantern who kills for the good of their nation and their people will ask Olladra for luck, even though they are deceiving others and spilling blood. The assassin who invokes the Mockery knows that they are spilling blood solely for their personal gain, and takes pride and delight in their power to inflict pain. The monks of the Flayed Hand are an example of this: they acknowledge the Mockery as the Sovereign of Bloodshed and Betrayal, but worship him still, and believe that they commune with the divine by inflicting pain. And for this reason, the Flayed Hand is a secretive order and the monks hide their devotional scars; those who knowingly employ the Flayed Hand are comfortable with cruelty.

One aspect of the Mockery that’s not always recognized is the use of Fear. Dol Dorn inspires courage in the soldier’s heart; the Mockery shows them how to inflict terror on their enemies. This ties to the idea that the Mockery delights in causing pain—psychological as well as physical. This leads to one of the few potential paths for a player character who honors the Mockery: the hero who uses fear as a weapon, such as Batman or the Shadow (the pulp hero, not the deity!). This is a dark path to follow, as the fearmonger knows they are inflicting suffering on their enemies. This can tie to the idea that my enemies don’t deserve to be treated with honor—that it’s acceptable to engage in a brutal war on evil, to fight fire with fire. The main point is that the Mockery believes that no weapon is too vile to use in battle, and fear or other forms of psychological warfare are certainly valid. Most likely, a vigilante who embraces the Mockery in this way believes that the law is ineffective—that Aureon’s laws and Dol Arrah’s honor has failed, and that only cruelty and fear can overcome the threats the character is facing or avenge the wrong that’s been done to them.

The Lord of Victory

The Pyrinean Creed casts the Mockery as a force of pure evil—the cruel betrayal who delights in the suffering of innocents. But there are many ways to look at the world. The Cazhaak faith calls the Mockery the Lord of Victory. The Pyrinean interpretation chooses Dol Arrah over the Mockery, saying that war can and should be fought honorably. The Cazhaak interpretation says there is no honor in war. War is brutality and bloodshed. Once you see this—that someone ALWAYS suffers in war—you’ll realize that it’s better to be the one holding the blade rather than the one who bleeds. The Cazhaak Creed values cunning over brute strength; ultimately, survival is the proof of righteousness. If the goblin defeats the ogre, it doesn’t matter if they used poison or treachery; they should be celebrated for finding a path to victory.

The Cazhaak creed promotes a harsh, ruthless vision of the world: you should always be ready for betrayal. You should always be watching for weakness in those you deal with. One might think that this philosophy would undermine any form of community. But the Cazhaak creed does create communities, just in a very different way from Boldrei’s love and Aureon’s laws. The Cazhaak community is a wolf pack. Leaders must command respect with their cunning and power. If people don’t betray their leaders, it’s not because of honor or duty; it’s because they think it’s in their own self-interest to serve the leader, or believe that they couldn’t get away with the betrayal. You follow your leader because you believe you will prosper under her rule. In a society driven by the Cazhaak principles, no agreement can be based purely on trust. Words alone mean nothing; they have to be backed up by fear, by the knowledge that betrayal will carry a terrible cost. Look to Droaam as a whole; while Katra inspires with her voice, Maenya’s fist is always ready. It is a cruel way to view the world, but it makes sense to those who follow it. To the Cazhaak vassal, the ideals of Dol Arrah are childish; war isn’t a game with rules. With that said, it’s important to recognize that while the Cazhaak faith can support communities, historically it has never been tested on a wide scale. Droaam is a new nation, and in the centuries prior the Barrens were ruled by small communites and city-states. The Pyrinean scholar might argue that why Aureon’s laws and Dol Arrah’s ideals matter is because international relations rely on trust and on law. The armies of Droaam rely on guerilla warfare and small-unit tactics, where the cunning of the squad leader can turn the tide of battle. It remains to be seen if their ruthless principles can support global relationships.

Some who follow the Cazhaak path draw in the more extreme elements of the Lord of Bloodshed and Betrayal. There are those who revel in displays of cruelty; the Skinners of Graywall prey on despised foreigners and wear the tanned hides of their victims as grisly trophies. But for most who follow the Cazhaak path, the point is more that the world is cruel, and you must be strong and cunning to survive it; do whatever you must to bring down your foes.

If you’re a player character who follows the Cazhaak creed, a key point is that you expect betrayal and cruelty from others. You believe that you need to display your strength or cunning to ward off challenges; you aren’t used to kindness or pure altruism and you don’t expect people to keep their word if it becomes an inconvenience to them. You expect people to be driven by self-interest. The key to a lasting bargain isn’t a word of honor; it’s making sure that neither party dares to break the agreement.

The Three Faces of War

The Three Faces of War is a mystery cult found across the Five Nations. Exploring Eberron has this to say…

The Three Faces of War honors Dol Arrah, Dol Dorn, and Dol Azur (the Mockery). It was part of the united armies of Galifar, and cult chapters can be found in all of the armies of the Five Nations. Sect meetings provide a place for soldiers and veterans to interact as friends and equals, regardless of rank or nationality. The cult asserts that honor and courage are to be valued, but there is also a time and place for cunning and cruelty, even if it is never to be desired.

As depicted by the Three Faces of War, Dol Azur is a less intense version of the Lord of Victory. The Three Faces of War acknowledge that his actions are dishonorable and cruel, that the world is a better place if we all live in Dol Arrah’s light. But followers of the Three Faces acknowledge that the world is cruel, and that there are times when victory must come before honor. The Three Faces of War notably downplay the aspect of betrayal and focus on Dol Azur’s role on the battlefield; at the same time, followers of the Three Faces of War are definitely feel that while treaties play an important role in international relationships, a commander must always be prepared to violate a treaty when the moment is right. The Three Faces of War also recognizes the power of psychological warfare, of using fear to demoralize a foe. The key point is that followers of the Three Faces honor Dol Arrah and Dol Dorn; they do believe that honor has a place on the battlefield. But they believe that every tactic has its time and place—that we should strive to fight just wars, but be prepared for them to get ugly. Members of the Three Faces often feel that they have a particular affinity for one of the Sovereigns; those who feel they are guided by Dol Azur may still seek to using their powers for good, but they acknowledge that they have a knack for sowing terror or ruthless action when it becomes necessary. Within the sect, steel is used to represent Dol Dorn, gold to represent Dol Arrah, and leather to represent Dol Azur; if a soldier wears a leather ring, it might be a sign that they feel they are guided by the Mockery.

The Three Faces of War is a hidden sect, but its existence is a fairly open secret. It has members in all of the armies of the Five Nations. Allegiance to the Three Faces definitely doesn’t supercede national loyalty, but provided that it doesn’t violate that loyalty, it provides a foundation for friendship between soldiers of different nations. If a player character with the Soldier background chooses to be an initiate of the Three Faces of War, this can be used to explain how the benefits of the Military Rank feature apply when dealing with soldiers of other nations; even if they fought one another in the Last War, they respect the character as an initiate into the mysteries. And again, a player character could decide that they are guided by Dol Arrah and wear gold to show it; just because they accept that Dol Azur is part of war doesn’t mean that they have to embrace his path.

Using The Mockery

So how can you use the Mockery in a campaign? Well, in a world filled with shades of grey, followers of the Sovereign of Bloodshed and Betrayal are a good source of absolute villains. When you’re running a pulp campaign and you want someone who feels capital-E EVIL, a Flayed Hand monk is certainly an option. Someone who is guided by the Pyrinean creed but nonetheless chooses to embrace the Mockery is something who delights in cruelty and who believes that they gain strength by inflicting suffering on others. I could imagine a serial killer warlock who believes their power flows from the Mockery, and whose Mask of a Thousand Faces ability requires a strip of skin from the person they wish to impersonate. On the other hand, you could explore the idea of a group of ruthless vigilantes who believe that the terror tactics of the Mockery are the only way to combat rising crime… or the once-virtuous person who’s turned to the Mockery and the Fury to take vengeance for a crime Aureon’s laws failed to stop. Turning to the Lord of Victory, this can work anywhere you have a wolf pack, a group that will do whatever it takes to survive and overcome a foe. Aside from this, it can be a generally interesting way to contrast a soldier of Droaam from one of the Five Nations. Those who follow the Cazhaak path genuinely see the idea of honor in war as a childish concept. This doesn’t make them EVIL. Just because the world is cruel doesn’t mean they have to be unnecessarily cruel. but it means that they will do whatever is required to survive, that they will show mercy only if they see some clear benefit down the road. Meanwhile, the Three Faces of War is an old tradition that seeks to forge a bond between soldiers of all nations, and if one or more of the player characters is a veteran of the Last War, an influential member of the Three Faces could be a useful patron. Alternately, while the cult overall isn’t malevolent, an influential Azur-touched initiate of the Three Faces of War could use the organization to rally other Azur-touched for some sinister purpose.

Q&A

Is someone who “fights dirty” in a direct sense (leverage, gouging, cheap shots) fighting more in the vein of Dol Dorn or the Mockery? 

It’s important to remember that Vassals see the Dark Six as part of everyday life. When your anger gets the better of you, you let the Fury take hold for a moment. The Keeper drives our greed, and the Mockery urges us to take the cheap shot. If you’re watching a fight and there’s a move that makes everyone go “Ooooh—that’s a dirty trick!” then yes, that’s guided by the Mockery. The point is that Dol Dorn gives you the strength and skill you need to win in a fair fight, and the Mockery can show you how to win when you can’t win a fair fight. But throwing one sucker punch doesn’t make you a cultist of the Mockery. Think of people saying “The Devil made me do it” in our world—that’s not the same as saying “I am now a warlock devoted to dark powers.”

The key aspect is that people use the Dark Six to explain why there is evil in the world. Atrocities happen in war, just as rage or passion can drive people to violence in everyday life. People condemn those actions and blame them on the corrupting influence of the Dark Six, but that doesn’t mean they believe everyone who takes such an action consciously chose to serve the Six. The voices of the Six are with us all the time; the virtuous Vassal should overcome them and heed Aureon’s law and Dol Arrah’s light.

Rising calls out the divine domains of the Mockery (Trickery and War), but what subclass would you suggest for a Paladin of Dol Azur or for a Warlock who sees the Mockery as their patron?

For a Paladin, my immediate choice would be Conquest. FEAR is one of the traits of the Mockery, and beyond having fear on their spell list, Conquering Presence and Aura of Conquest are both fear-related abilities. Vengeance is possible, but I’d be more inclined to give it to a paladin of the Fury. Likewise, Oathbreaker is an option, but given the association with undead I’d be more likely to use it for a paladin of the Keeper.

For a warlock, my inclination would be Hexblade. The Mockery is a Sovereign of War, after all; the Shadow is a more logical source of general malevolent magic.

Why can a Karrnathi soldier not openly declare themselves to belong to the Three Faces of War, following in the footsteps of Karrn?

The existence of the Three Faces of War isn’t a secret. It’s been around for around two thousand years. Everyone knows that it exists and that it’s part of the armies of the Five Nations, and there’s never been an inquisition to wipe it out. It’s not seen as a threat or as a cult of the Dragon Below. The reason you don’t announce it is because it’s a MYSTERY CULT. Only those who have been initiated into its mysteries understand it, and only they DESERVE to know about it. The Karrn soldier doesn’t hide the fact that they belong to the Three Faces of War because it’s a crime; they hide it because the uninitiated don’t deserve to know about it. Beyond that, it’s a known fact that the Three Faces cults involve veneration of the Dark Six. Initiates understand the context of this and WHY they accept their chosen member of the Six as worthy of veneration—but they know that those who don’t understand the mysteries will not. So, the first rule of the Three Faces is that you don’t talk about the Three Faces.

What is the relationship of the goblinoids of Darguun to the Mockery and the Three Faces of War?

The Ghaal’dar hobgoblins and the Maargul bugbears both revere the Mockery. Much like the minotaurs of Droaam and the Horned King, each tribe and clan has its own interpretation and unique traditions, but they fall on a spectrum between the Sovereign of Betrayal and Bloodshed and the Lord of Victory. Since taking power, Lhesh Haruuc has been working to promote the worship of Dol Dorn and Dol Arrah, blending this with the existing worship of the Mockery. The simple fact is that this is about optics more than faith. Haruuc recognizes that most people of the Five Nations see worship of the Mockery as evil, and shifting the conversation to say that Darguuls worship all of the Sovereigns of War makes things a little more palatable for outsiders. Having said that, Haruuc believes that there are lessons to be learned from each of the Sovereigns, and feels a particular affinity for Dol Dorn—so his efforts aren’t entirely insincere. At the moment, there has been no concerted effort by the Three Faces of War to initiate Darguuls, but it’s possible that there are mercenaries who were initiated by comrades during the war.

What’s the Orb of Dol Azur?

The Orb of Dol Azur was first mentioned in an article I wrote in 2004. Since then, it’s been my go-to MacGuffin, an easy placeholder to drop in any time people are looking for something mysterious and powerful. I’ve never actually used it in a campaign or ever said what it does, though by all accounts it’s powerful and dangerous. Dragons of Eberron establishes that the draconic champions fought the overlord known as Katashka the Gatekeeper during the Age of Demons, and it’s entirely possible that this is the actual basis of the myth of the Dols fighting Death. If you accept this, it’s an easy step to think that the Orb of Dol Azur could actually be an artifact the proto-Mockery stole from the citadel of the Overlord. Katashka the Gatekeeper embodies our fears of death and the undead. With that in mind, people on the Eberron Discord server have made a number of interesting suggestions as to what the Orb could be…

  • The Orb of Dol Azur is one of the eyes of the Overlord Katashka. By default it’s the size of a dragon’s eye—quite large—but the proper ritual could cause it to shift to a size appropriate to the bearer. In short, this would be a way to use the mechanics of the Eye of Vecna in a form that fits the lore of Eberron.
  • When you kill someone with a Keeper’s Fang—a magical weapon that prevents resurrection—their soul is bound to the Orb of Dol Azur. At this point, the Orb holds the spirits of countless mortals and lesser fiends trapped over the course of history.

I doubt I’ll ever give an official answer, because I enjoy having a vague MacGuffin… but I think both of those are interesting possibilities!

That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for choosing this topic and for making these articles possible!

67 thoughts on “Dark Six: The Mockery

  1. The faithful of Dol Azur seem more self-sufficient than devout of even other Cazhaak gods. Are there any agents that can rally or organize the Flayed Hands beyond might makes right, or is there any recognized station that means your inevitable betrayal will at least be delayed until a common goal for the Lord of Victory is fulfilled?

    • Remember that as with most Sovereign variants, the Cazhaak path typically invokes the pantheon as a whole. Even in this article, I note that someone seeking vengeance might call on both the Fury and the Mockery—the Fury as the overall patron of vengeance, the Mockery to guide their hand as they murder their foe. There are certainly groups of individuals—like the Skinners of Graywall or the Flayed Hands—who are specifically devoted to the Mockery, but OVERALL the Lord of Victory is one of six guiding principles. Just sayin’.

      As to the greater question, certainly; you just need to create such an individual. The monks of the Flayed Hand believe that inflicting pain brings them closer to the divine, and are generally happy with doing mercenary work to create opportunities for this. But I could easily imagine a charismatic leader who rallies a Flayed Hand cell for a greater divine purpose… or an agent of Rak Tulkhesh who weaponizes a particular cell of the Three Faces of War. And as for the inevitable betrayal, the main point is that your inevitable betrayal will be postponed until you no longer have value or power. The threat is always there; leaders like Sheska thrive because her people believe that she IS the most cunning and capable, that there is nothing to be gained by betraying her and potentially much to be lost.

  2. Thanks Keith, this is great stuff! Some people on the Discord have aritculated feeling that the Mockery is too dark a shade of black to really find anything to like about him, and I think this does a great job of showing nuance amid the obvious darkside of the various interpretations.

    How do the three overall Vulkooridal interpretations of Vulkoor the Hunter, Vulkoor the Wrathful, and Vulkoor the Cunning relate to the Sovereign of Blood and Betrayal, Lord of Victory, and the Three Faces of War interpretations you’ve described here? Are they just their own thing?

    • How do the three overall Vulkooridal interpretations of Vulkoor the Hunter, Vulkoor the Wrathful, and Vulkoor the Cunning relate to the Sovereign of Blood and Betrayal, Lord of Victory, and the Three Faces of War interpretations you’ve described here? Are they just their own thing?
      They could well just be their own thing. If I was a Vassal syncretist, though, I’d probably map them to Balinor (Hunter), the Fury (Wrathful), and the Mockery (Cunning) rather than the Three Faces of War. These aren’t three aspects of WAR; they are three different ways in which Vulkoor guides you in life.

  3. I think that the Mockery as Lord of Victory shines some different light. As always, I tend toward that the Dark Six is a pantheon of evil. However, in light of this, there is a possibility, however remote, that a lawful good paladin could have the Mockery as his patron. The Three Faces of War sect could sponsor lawful good paladins. Am I wrong?

    • there is a possibility, however remote, that a lawful good paladin could have the Mockery as his patron. The Three Faces of War sect could sponsor lawful good paladins. Am I wrong?
      The Three Faces of War could certainly support LG paladins. But personally, I wouldn’t have an LG paladin who is devoted to the Mockery; I’d have an evil paladin of the Mockery who serves the greater good. Per my interpretation of alignment, there are two components: what you seek to accomplish, and HOW you try to accomplish it. In my campaign, someone who is willing to inflict pain and suffering on innocent people on an regular basis should have an evil alignment, even if they are doing it for the greater good. This is the point off Cardinal Krozen and King Kaius: both are people who are pursuing the greater good, but because they are willing to do so in cruel and ruthless ways, they are evil in alignment. While Queen Aurala pursues an evil goal—another war—but does so in a virtuous way, so her alignment is good.

      So the short form is that in Eberron, evil people can serve the greater good. In setting alignment, I don’t look at the long term goal, I look at what they are willing to do to achieve it.

      • Hmm. Another question, related to Darguun. Could the goblinoids there have temples dedicated to the Three Faces of War? I see Darguun as waiting for an opportunity to expand, and they use War to do it. They already send out slavers to capture humans and enslave them. The people of Darguun are foreseeing a way to return to glory. I could see open worship of Dol Arrah, Dol Dorn, and Dol Azur. Although the Mockery could have more open worship there.

  4. The Flayed Hand is very extreme, and very over the top. Which makes them great as pulp villains. Is there anywhere that they operate openly, even if some remote mountain monastery, or are they always as a rule a hidden underground faction?

    • The Flayed Hand is very extreme, and very over the top. Which makes them great as pulp villains. Is there anywhere that they operate openly, even if some remote mountain monastery, or are they always as a rule a hidden underground faction?

      Canonically, the Flayed Hand has outposts in the Great Crag and Rukhaan Draal. Beyond that, Zilargo immediately springs to mind, as a place that’s noted for being extremely open minded when it comes to religion and to having public shrines and temples devoted to the Dark Six. i could see a fortress monastery in one of the Lhazaar Principalities, that has the support of the prince. Within the Five Nations, I’d expect them to be either secretive or at least disguised as something else—an isolated Vassal monastery.

    • The “Monastic Orders” Dragonshard says:

      “The primary monasteries of the Flayed Hand are located in the Great Crag (Droaam) and Rukhaan Draal (Darguun). In other lands, the monasteries of the Mockery are small and carefully disguised, and the archimandrites are always prepared to evacuate on a moment’s notice.” http://archive.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/ebds/20041213a

      This always suggested to me that the monasteries in the Great Crag and Rhukaan Draal operated openly.

      • This always suggested to me that the monasteries in the Great Crag and Rhukaan Draal operated openly.
        That’s correct. Because that’s clearly stated in the article, I assumed the question was asking if they could be found in an non-“monstrous” nations, but I appreciate the clarification.

  5. Rising calls out the divine domains of the Mockery, but what subclass would you suggest for a Paladin of Dol Azur or for a Warlock who sees the Mockery as their patron?

    I do also love the idea of a battle master fighting who specialises in the menacing strike for the Mockery.

    • I think oathbreaker would be the fit in terms of a theme. They need to break their oaths to win. Could also recruit paladins that have broken their oaths or push them to do so and then recruit.

  6. Would General Kolas Verdgrin of Breland have been following the Mockery in the Three Faces of War when he burned Cyran monasteries down? Or are his fellow commanders more quick to claim he was over the line (even if parts of Breland see him as a political prisoner)?

    Is someone who “fights dirty” in a direct sense (leverage, gouging, cheap shots) fighting more in the vein of Dol Dorn or the Mockery? Is simple dirty fighting considered something looked down on in Pyrinean society or is does it need to go much more extreme to be under the portfolio of the Mockery?

    • Is someone who “fights dirty” in a direct sense (leverage, gouging, cheap shots) fighting more in the vein of Dol Dorn or the Mockery?

      It’s important to remember that Vassals see the Dark Six as part of everyday life. When your anger gets the better of you, you let the Fury take hold for a moment. The Keeper drives our greed, and the Mockery urges us to take the cheap shot. If you’re watching a fight and there’s a move that makes everyone go “Ooooh—that’s a dirty trick!” then yes, that’s guided by the Mockery. The point is that Dol Dorn gives you the strength and skill you need to win in a fair fight, and the Mockery can show you how to win when you can’t win a fair fight. But throwing one sucker punch doesn’t make you a cultist of the Mockery. Think of people saying “The Devil made me do it” in our world—that’s not the same as saying “I am now a warlock devoted to dark powers.”

      The key aspect is that people use the Dark Six to explain why there is evil in the world. Atrocities happen in war, just as rage or passion can drive people to violence in everyday life. People condemn those actions and blame them on the corrupting influence of the Dark Six, but that doesn’t mean they believe everyone who takes such an action consciously chose to serve the Six. The voices of the Six are with us all the time; the virtuous Vassal should overcome them and heed Aureon’s law and Dol Arrah’s light.

    • Would General Kolas Verdgrin of Breland have been following the Mockery in the Three Faces of War when he burned Cyran monasteries down?
      Followers of the Three Faces of War know the actions Dol Azur suggests will be despised by the public. They know they are cruel and ruthless. They would never try to publicly defend such an action by saying “I’m following the doctrine of Dol Azur.” The point is that followers of the 3FWr believe that there are times when you must take such actions even though they will be reviled—that the ends will justify the means. So yes, it’s quite likely that General Verdgrin is an initiate of the Three Faces of War and that he made a conscious decision to follow the path of Dol Azur with his actions, and any Vassal would say “He let the Mockery take him down a dark path”… again, “The Devil made me do it.” But Verdgrin wouldn’t invoke his 3FWr faith as a defense for his actions. Fellow commanders who believe that war should be fought with honor would definitely condemn his actions. Others aligned with the 3FWr would likely do what’s most politically expedient in the moment—again, expect betrayal in the pursuit of victory—but they’d at least sympathize in private.

    • What myths are there for how the Mockery became a half fiend when depicted as a dragon?
      Remember that such depictions are METAPHORICAL, not scientific. The Mockery is depicted as a half-fiend dragon because his actions are seen as fiendish; it’s a visual way to imply his cruelty. So the myth is simply that when his skin was removed (whether by Aureon or by the Mockery himself) it revealed the monster within. If you wanted to embrace the beliefs of Thir and to say that he really WAS a half-fiend dragon, then perhaps he consumed a demon and in so doing, it became a part of him.

      • “Consumed a demon and in so doing, it became part of him”? If the Mockery/Dol Azur/Dulazurak is sometimes depicted as being a half-fiend red dragon specifically, does that make him similar to Ashardalon? Does that mean that some dragons might follow in Dulazurak’s footsteps, ala the disciple of Ashardalon prestige class from the 3.5 Draconomicon, which is mentioned in page 83 of 3.5 Dragons of Eberron?

  7. I’m now wondering if there’s a sect of the Mockery who see him as a champion of *equality* — that “honor” is constructed by the powerful to keep people in their place, and lies, terror, and torment are the best ways for the oppressed to survive … or maybe it’s the Three Faces of Revolution, Boldrei as the community you defend, the Fury as call to action, and the Mockery as method of doing so.

    • I’m now wondering if there’s a sect of the Mockery who see him as a champion of *equality* — that “honor” is constructed by the powerful to keep people in their place, and lies, terror, and torment are the best ways for the oppressed to survive …
      Sure! That’s the direction Rrac is taking in the second quote—”It’s a question posed by those who wish you to believe that they are strong and you are weak, that you would be helpless without them.”

  8. You have mentioned the “Orb of Dol Azur” multiple times as an example artifact. The most noteworthy instance is the “Orb of Dol Azur” having been “dream-lost,” in 5e Exploring Eberron. What could the “Orb of Dol Azur” possibly be?

    If Dol Arrah has an astrological/astronomical association with the sun, does Dol Azur have any association with a heavenly body?

  9. The Orb of Dol Azur. You reference it in Exploring Eberron, indeed the description of the cover art states…
    “With the aid of Droaam’s enigmatic Daughters of Sora Kell, the bold adventurers known as the Badgers have opened a portal to Dal Quor – an achievement long thought to be impossible. Can the artificer Dela d’Cannith master the dream-lost Orb of Dol Azur before her comrades are overwhelmed by du’ulora and tsucora quori?”

    I ran a search and found that you referenced the Orb of Dol Azur all the way back in July of 2004, two full years before Faiths of Eberron confirmed Dol Azur was the name of the Mockery in the Heroic Journeys dragonshard you wrote on the old WotC site.
    “If the party is racing against the Emerald Claw to claim the Orb of Dol Azur, an occasional ambush or scheme involving agents of the Emerald Claw helps to set the tone of the story.”

    Is this an artifact you have actually fleshed out in your head or just a name you like for a McGuffin?

  10. According to page 78 of 3.5 City of Stormreach, it was Karrn the Conqueror who founded the Three Faces of War. Why, then, is the sect lacking in public respect? Why can a Karrnathi soldier not openly declare themselves to belong to the Three Faces of War, following in the footsteps of Karrn?

    • The existence of the Three Faces of War isn’t a secret. It’s been around for around two thousand years. Everyone knows that it exists and that it’s part of the armies of the Five Nations, and there’s never been an inquisition to wipe it out. It’s not seen as a threat or as a cult of the Dragon Below. The reason you don’t announce it is because it’s a MYSTERY CULT. Only those who have been initiated into its mysteries understand it, and only they DESERVE to know about it. The Karrn soldier doesn’t hide the fact that they belong to the Three Faces of War because it’s a crime; they hide it because the uninitiated don’t deserve to know about it. Beyond that, it’s a known fact that the Three Faces cults involve veneration of the Dark Six. Initiates understand the context of this and WHY they accept their chosen member of the Six as worthy of veneration—but they know that those who don’t understand the mysteries will not. So, the first rule of the Three Faces is that you don’t talk about the Three Faces.

      Also, just for the record, Karrn the Conqueror isn’t a universally beloved figure. In some ways, he’s like Genghis Kahn; he’s known for his brilliant military abilities, but also for trying to conquer the known world—and, at the end of the day, for FAILING to do so. Just saying.

  11. Is Lhesh Haruuc trying to stamp out worship of the Mockery in Darguun? Page 155 of the original 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting suggests that the goblinoids of Darguun traditionally worship either the Shadow or the Mockery (e.g. the Kalkor tribe of the Marguul are “dedicated followers of the Mockery”), but Lhesh Haruuc is trying to spread faith in Dol Dorn instead.

    Page 304 even mentions that “Marguul clerics worship the Mockery or Lhesh Shaarat, a bugbear interpretation of Dol Dorn.”

    • I’ve added a discussion of this to the end of the article. Haruuc isn’t trying to stamp out the worship of the Mockery, but he is promoting the worship of Dol Dorn—in part as a public relations effort to help improve Darguun’s image in the eyes of the Five Nations.

  12. You have referenced the idea of flaying and preserving skin multiple times in this article. Indeed, page 51 of 3.5 Faiths of Eberron even says that priests of the Mockery “are also expected to learn something of anatomy and surgery.” What magic do followers of the Mockery actually use to assist in the extraction and preservation of skin?

    You have mentioned previously that the Sovereign Host and the Church of the Silver Flame are compatible religions. Is it considered “socially acceptable” to apply the techniques of the Mockery against fiends, undead, and similar creatures of evil? Would anyone really care if, say, a barbazu or a wraith gets bamboozled and slain?

    • To add to the first question, flayskin from page 153 of 3.5 Faiths of Eberron is an alchemical process for tanning leather, but it is unrelated to the extraction of the skin, and flayskin leather becomes brittle and useless after 24 hours. Page 51 mentions that priests of the Mockery can “chemically” treat blood “to retain its fresh color and viscosity.”

  13. Page 77 of 3.5 Races of Eberron, and page 33 of the 3.5 Player’s Guide to Eberron, assert that the drow of Xen’drik equate the Mockery with Vulkoor.

    Conversely, page 72 of 3.5 Secrets of Xen’drik says that equating the Mockery with Vulkoor is done by “some scholars,” rather than the drow themselves. The same page nevertheless goes on to say that the Mockery and Vulkoor share domains, as if implying that Vulkoor taps into the same divine source as the Mockery.

    Which source is correct here?

    • If we’re going by the most recently published source, the Eberron Campaign Guide goes with the latter interpretation: “The tribal drow worship a fierce scorpion-god called Vulkoor, whose faith is unknown beyond Xen’drik. Such drow refer to themselves as the Vulkoori. Some theologians of the Sovereign Host and the Dark Six believe Vulkoor to be an aspect of the Mockery.”

      Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes goes with the former interpretation, but the lore is a bit weird for Eberron.

    • I support the SoX interpretation. Pyrinean scholars are always claiming that deities worshipped by other cultures are just misinterpretations of the scholars. The mechanical fact is that Vulkoor uses the same domains as the Mockery (though if I were to do it all over today, I might say that Vulkoor the Hunter grants the domains of Balinor and Vulkoor the Wrathful grants the domains of the Fury). This is sufficient for Pyrinean scholars to claim that Vulkoor IS the Mockery. However, the Vulkooridal drow do not accept this interpretation. They don’t care about the Mockery and won’t see a priest of the Mockery as sharing their faith; Vulkoor if Vulkoor.

      • “The mechanical fact […] is sufficient for Pyrinean scholars to claim that Vulkoor IS the Mockery”

        So domains a deity grants is NOT pure game mechanics? Is it something like “Servants of the Mockery are known to turn invisible, create illusions, and cause objects to shatter. Those serving Vulkoor also have those abilities, so the two seem to be the same.” or is there more to it?

        (and I have found out while writing that, of the Mockery’s domains only half, Destruction, Illusion and Trickery, grant non-Cleric spells at low level, and War actually gives a slightly different effect between the two due to favored weapon differences.)

        • So domains a deity grants is NOT pure game mechanics? Is it something like “Servants of the Mockery are known to turn invisible, create illusions, and cause objects to shatter. Those serving Vulkoor also have those abilities, so the two seem to be the same.” or is there more to it?

          Yes and no. First of all, divine domains are certainly recognized within the world. They are reliable and repeatable. So absolutely, it is a recognized fact that divine champions of the Mockery can turn invisible and that champions of Aureon can identify magical objects and master any tool for a short time. These things may not be common knowledge because such divine champions aren’t common, but it’s absolutely something sages have recorded and that a character could know with an appropriate skill check.

          With that said, it’s not as simple as “Their divine champions can turn invisible, therefore they must be worshipping the Mockery.” After all, clerics of Olladra and the Traveler also have access to the Trickery Domain. It’s the combination of the domain abilities and the fact that Vulkoor the Cunning is a ruthless predator who encourages his followers to use guerilla tactics to overcome their enemies… IE, much like the philosophy of the Lord of Victory… that causes the Synchretists to say that they must be worshipping a form of the Mockery, not Olladra.

  14. If the Orb of Dol Azur is “an artifact the proto-Mockery stole from the citadel of the Overlord,” then how could it possibly have become “dream-lost” in Dal Quor?

    • In particular, the suggestion that “When you kill someone with a Keeper’s Fang—a magical weapon that prevents resurrection—their soul is bound to the Orb of Dol Azur. At this point, the Orb holds the spirits of countless mortals and lesser fiends trapped over the course of history” is fascinating, because it loosely fits the soul-binding gimmick of kalaraq quori.

      If the above suggestion is true, then it creates the fascinating scenario wherein a weapon supposedly tied to the Keeper is actually linked to the Mockery instead.

      It never previously occurred to me that a Keeper’s Fang could trap the souls of fiends.

    • I am removing the line of conversation that this comment has generated. I’m fine with discussions on the topic, but I am not interested in having that conversation devolve into lengthy mudslinging and sarcasm.

      To address the question itself: the thing to understand is that I have mentioned the Orb of Dol Azur eight times and that there has never been an intent for there to be a logical thread that connects those eight mentions. I’ve never created statistics for it and I never intend to; that’s not the purpose it serves for me. It is the object I use when I need to fill a blank space, nothing more. YOU can chose to flesh out that story, and in the article I provide suggestions other people have made in that regard. But *I* am never going to explain it or give concrete details, because once I do, it no longer serves the purpose for which I created it.

  15. How would you handle from a story perspective a fighter or a non magical character being heavily devoted to a sovereign? What is the difference between a Fighter and a Paladin who both offer tribute, prayer and example to the Mockery or even the Three Faces of War?

    • Most of the people of the Five Nations are devoted to the Sovereigns, and most of them don’t have or expect to have divine abilities. The common soldier believes that Dol Dorn grants him STRENGTH and COURAGE, and guides his hand in battle. When he gets a good attack roll, that’s Dol Dorn guiding him. When he uses Action Surge, he could say that he’s calling on the Sovereigns give him that surge of energy. Battle Master fighter can go more specific. A fighter devoted to Dol Arrah is more likely to take Commander’s Strike and Commanding Presence; one devoted to the Mockery would be likely to take Ambush and Menacing Attack. The point being that a fighter devoted to Dol Arrah will act with honor and seek to inspire others; a fighter devoted to the Mockery will be ruthless and cruel. They don’t need to have divine powers because of the fact they believe; again, MOST people in the Five Nations believe in the Sovereigns, but even many PRIESTS don’t wield divine magic.

  16. A thought that occurs is that a leather ring might been seen as a threat during an interrogation, a way of saying “I am done being nice”. Do you think that “He’s putting on the leather rings” might be the same as “He’s taking off the kid gloves” in Khorvaire?

    • Certainly. I could even see “Gold or leather?” as a “Good cop or bad cop?” equivalent between two members of the 3FWr.

  17. Would war espionage be considered as part of the Mockery’s area of influence?
    If so, would it be like a “lesser evil” or there’s a kind of espionage that’s considered honorable or not disliked by some sovereign?

    • Would war espionage be considered as part of the Mockery’s area of influence?
      I don’t think so. Remember that Olladra is also a deity who uses cunning and deception; In the Thorn of Breland books, Thorn (a Dark Lantern) seeks Olladra’s blessing in dangerous moments. The Mockery seeks to cause pain and suffering. An assassin who kills for gold may see the Mockery as their patron. But a spy who prefers to avoid violence when possible and who seeks to gather information that could turn the tied of battle and potentially PREVENT the loss of life can certainly claim Olladra as their patron.

  18. For your eberron would the three faces of war cult in karrnath have seen the undead as tactically needed part of the mockery? Possibly consider Kaius lacking in pragmatism for locking them up?

    Would the practice of flaying of a dragonmark be related to the story of the Mockery? That the heirs treason would have the house flay them like Aureon did (albeit to a lesser degree)? As the mark itself would reappear on a different body part. I could see some horror story in the house itself about some heir being so treacherous half their body was flayed or somesuch (and to make it spooky the heir ended up with a aberrant mark).

    • For your eberron would the three faces of war cult in karrnath have seen the undead as tactically needed part of the mockery? Possibly consider Kaius lacking in pragmatism for locking them up?
      The Three Faces don’t have a single monolithic belief. Overall, they give as much weight to Dol Arrah as to Dol Azur. Individual initiates feel that they are blessed by one of the three, and those blessed by Dol Azur lean in that direction. But there are surely Karrnathi followers of the 3FWr who argue—like the Blades of Karrn—that the use of undead undermines the proud martial tradition of Karrnath. So it’s surely a topic debated within individual 3FWr circles, and support for it likely varied from circle to circle. But certainly, those blessed by Dol Azur would be more likely to support the practice.

      Would the practice of flaying of a dragonmark be related to the story of the Mockery?
      No, I don’t think so. It’s a fairly obvious way to kick someone out of a dragomarked house; cut away their mark. Someone might compare the two, sure, but I don’t see that the Mockery myth would have been the inspiration for the punishment; I think it’s just “We’re removing your mark.”

      • Still though, it’s clearly an act of cruelty meant to terrify dissenters (and I assume a lot of the dragonmarked would have died from infection or blood loss after being flayed, especially if they had a larger mark). So inspired or not, it does serve the Mockery all the same.

      • Then while it wouldn’t be the inspiration to start the practice, decades on the comparison might be made and retroactively work in the faith into the flaying. “Don’t let the mockery guide you away from the house, betrayal leaves you as flayed as he is.” That not only are you tossed out of the house but you’re cursed by one of the dark six as well. And such a cursed soul can’t have a true mark and would get aberrant marked. Not that it’s how it works but some fear mongering that is how it does would be terrifying.

  19. House Thuranni deals with assassination, What’s their approach to the subject, do they have the views of the Tairnadal (what’s good for the House is honorable), do they have the views of the Mockery, or is the house secular and they view assassination just as a part of their bussiness?

    And how do they view other assassins for that matter? Their motivations aren’t all that much different.

    • House Thuranni would mainly deal with their heirloom performances, as does house Phiarlan, a practice not unlike the tairnadals patron ancestor (the shadow schism was only a few years ago, made even more recent given it’s elves). While some members might deal with the host, I think Olladra might suit as a patron deity over such thuranni that go more host. Or some three faces of assassin cult maybe Olladra, Azur and Korran?

    • House Thuranni deals with assassination, What’s their approach to the subject, do they have the views of the Tairnadal (what’s good for the House is honorable), do they have the views of the Mockery, or is the house secular and they view assassination just as a part of their bussiness?
      Largely the latter. Thuranni has its roots in Aerenal, and they still treasure that lineage, if primarily through their art. As such, they have never had a particular attachment to the Sovereign Host, and thus don’t view their actions through the lens of Dol Arrah and the Mockery. To a certain degree, they view their work as ART; it’s not a question of good and evil as much as it is carrying out the perfect kill. Beyond this, Thuranni is still based in the phiarlan tradition, by which they assert that their actions help to maintain a greater balance. BUt the shortest form is that as a house, THuranni doesn’t care about the Sovereigns and doesn’t define its actions by their terms.

  20. Is the Mockery more prominent among revolutionary movements like the Blades of Liberty and Queen Dianni’s faction? Or is the betrayal he represents more personal than that?

    • I think it would be bad optics to favor one of the dark six as a movement, unless the revolution is to flip society over. Queen Diani depending on your adventure might favor the host (as her right to rule is from aureon) or favor the flame (as one of her goals is to separate the faith from the church-government).

    • Is the Mockery more prominent among revolutionary movements like the Blades of Liberty and Queen Dianni’s faction?
      The Swords of Liberty aren’t ANARCHISTS. They don’t want to see Breland burn. They want to overthrow the MONARCHY, which they see as being outdated and oppressing the people. So from a public standpoint, rather then embracing the Mockery, they will embrace Aureon and Boldrei, saying that the Crown no longer serves the PEOPLE (Boldrei) and that the laws have become unjust and must be rectified (Aureon). So THEY are on the side of divine law and have the mandate of Boldrei; they are blessed by the powers we all love. Now, IN PRIVATE COUNCILS, a soldier planning a raid may acknowledge that innocents will be killed and ask for the Mockery’s favor (especially if they are or have been a member of the 3FWr), knowing that Dol Arrah doesn’t smile on this venture—but most likely, they will feel a little guilty doing so, because for a Vassal, asking for the Mockery’s blessing on your actions is ACKNOWLEDGING that you’re doing something cruel and unjust. For a Vassal, embracing the Mockery is openly endorsing dishonorable actions and atrocities. The Mockery isn’t just about being clever; we have Olladra for that. They aren’t about change and transformation; that’s the role of the Traveler. The Mockery is about betrayal and bloodshed—about cunning ways to kill and cause pain. The Mockery certainly appeals to movements that are trying to otherthrow greater powers, because you may have to fight dirty to overcome superior numbers and resources. But by openly acknowledging that and publicly embracing the Mockery you are essentially saying that your cause is unjust: that you don’t have Aureon’s blessing, that you spit on Dol Arrah’s honor, that you are going to revel in cruelty and pain. A group with Vassal roots that believes its cause is just won’t acknowledge that the Mockery smiles on their actions; they will seek a way to claim that they have the Nine on their side, and if they can’t justify the blessing of Dol Arrah, then they’ll at least make do with Dol Dorn.

      Even the Three Faces of War accepts that there is a time and a place when the methods of the Mockery may be necessary, but prefers to avoid committing atrocities if there’s any alternative. The Mockery is cruel and thrives on the pain of innocents. Sometime you might HAVE to sacrifice civilians to achieve a vital goal. But that doesn’t mean that it should ever be seen as the preferable choice.

      • Possibly a bit much for THIS article, but are there examples of anarchists (or anarcho-socialists, anarcho-communists) in Khorvaire? Certain groups in the Eldeen Reaches, Shadow Marches or Talenta Plains spring to mind, but it seems reductive to go “druids = an-coms”.

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