Dragonmark: The Tricks of the Lords of Dust

Art by Rich Ellis and Grace Allison from Phoenix Dawn Command

Looking at the power of the Council of Ashtakala, people might wonder why the Lords of Dust haven’t conquered the world. A rakshasa’s first answer to this would be, “Haven’t we?”

“Eternal Evil,” Dragon 337

This month is challenging for many reasons, so rather than writing a long article I planned to write a number of smaller articles addressing questions posed by my Patreon supporters—questions like…

How do the Lords of Dust actually manipulate the people of Khorvaire, considering that their mental manipulation magics are not quite on par with, say, the Dreaming Dark? What’s the edge that allows them to compete with even mundane intelligence agencies such as the Dark Lanterns or House Phiarlan?

The problem is that sometimes questions that SEEM like simple topics turn out to have a lot of layers, and this turned out longer than planned. But let’s start with the shortest summary. How do the Lord of Dust manipulate the people of Khorvaire?

  • The Lords of Dust have been manipulating the people of Khorvaire since before there were people on Khorvaire. They don’t need to subvert people as the Dreaming Dark does, because they have a vast network of pawns that have been serving them for many generations.
  • Because of this, they already have people in influential positions in most major institutions and organizations in Khorvaire. They generally don’t directly control any of those organizations, but they are able to control the flow of information, burying reports, guiding the leaders in particular directions, and so on. And they do have Thuranni assassins, Dark Lanterns, and Trust agents (among others) who are directly loyal to them if they need them.
  • They have amassed vast wealth over the course of a hundred thousand years. Their top agents are mind-reading fiends. When they do need to put pressure on someone new, they can use both gold and secrets to do so.
  • They know possible paths of the future. They can start political movements that they don’t directly control because they know that in a century that movement will accomplish the thing they want it to. They have the Butterfly Effect on their side; they DO know that this one butterfly flapping its wings will cause a hurricane across the world in a decade. Now, that knowledge isn’t ABSOLUTE. They don’t know the impact of EVERY butterfly. But they know a few of them, and use those to their benefit.
  • A fun way for the Lords of Dust to manipulate people in the present is Faustian bargains: Give me your soul and I will grant you great wealth! Beat me at fiddling and I’ll give you this golden fiddle, but if you fail I take your life! The point is that FIENDS CAN LIE. Sul Khatesh can actually form warlock pacts, but a normal rakshasa CAN’T actually claim your soul. The point of this is the butterfly effect. What the fiend WANTS is for you to have this golden fiddle or to have wealth (which the Lords of Dust can easily grant through their connections and amassed resources) because somehow those things advance the prophetic path they are trying to lock in. But they want you to think that you WON the fiddle, or that they have claim to your soul… when both of these were just set dressing so people wouldn’t try to understand their REAL motives.

That’s the short answer. But as I said, there’s a lot more to this. So if you’d like to know more, read on.

An important step in planning an Eberron campaign is to decide which major villains you want to use, because you don’t have to use them all (and I personally wouldn’t). There’s nothing wrong with saying that it’s going to be a century before the Lords of Dust have an opportunity to release an overlord, that the stars aren’t right for any of the daelkyr, or that the Dreaming Dark is content in Riedra for the moment. So first of all, keep in mind that there’s no rule stating that the Lords of Dust HAVE to be actively competing with the Dreaming Dark, because it could be that the Lords of Dust aren’t trying to accomplish anything significant at the moment.

In choosing which villains you want to use, you want to consider the difference in their goals and methods, something I briefly discuss in this article. The Dreaming Dark is an alien force that seeks to conquer through subversion and infiltration, and this is why its tools are mind seed and possession. The story of the Dreaming Dark is a story of people you trust being turned against you, a story of secret invasion. The Lords of Dust tell a very different story. They have immense power in the present day. They have resources they’ve been amassing for a hundred thousand years. They have access to artifacts and eldritch machines. They have agents in place in every major house and organization. But they don’t care about the present day. Look back to the quote that opened the article. The Lords of Dust aren’t trying to conquer the world, because from their perspective they already have. They don’t want the trouble of openly ruling pathetic mortals, but through their vast network of pawns, they already have all the power they need in the present. Their goal isn’t to infiltrate existing organizations, because if they need to infiltrate an organization, they’ve already done it. Their goal is to shape events that will in turn shape the path of the future. Let’s take a quick look at the resources they have available.

  • The Lords of Dust are immortals who have been present since time began. They have been planning their schemes for a hundred thousand years. This has given then time to amass vast resources and to shape civilizations on both a large and small scale; the “Eternal Evil” article notes that when Lhazaar planned her expedition to Khorvaire, a rakshasa was advising her.
  • Through their studies of the Draconic Prophecy, they not only know the paths that will release their overlords, but they have a general roadmap of the paths the future can take. So that raksahsa guiding Lhazaar wasn’t acting blindly; they KNEW the consequences of pointing Lhazaar at Khorvaire and were intentionally shaping the future. The Lords of Dust are the organization who could build a vault in the wilderness because they know that THREE THOUSAND YEARS LATER it will be important. Again, think of them as time travelers; they just have to live their way forward to their desired future instead of jumping back and forth.
  • The central core of the Lords of Dust are rakshasa. Their leaders—Hektula, the Wyrmbreaker, etc—are exceptionally powerful rakshasa. But even the default rakshasa is a shapeshifting, mind-reading fiend with a range of enchantment and illusion abilities and potentially, the ability to return after death. But in many ways, the most powerful rakshasa ability is their spell immunity. A rakshasa cannot be “affected or detected” by spells of 6th level or below unless it allows it. That includes things like detect evil and good, see invisibility, and even true seeing. It allows them to walk through magic circles and forbiddance as if they weren’t there. They can ignore the vast majority of tools that would normally be used to detect the presence of fiends or to defend against them. It’s up to the DM to decide what it means that you “can’t be affected or detected” by, say, true seeing or zone of truth. In MY campaign I say that both spells appear to work normally even though they don’t; so a truthteller BELIEVES the rakshasa has been affected by zone of truth even though they haven’t, and true seeing shows the rakshasa’s disguise self as it it was its true appearance. So again, the point is that the rakshasa have a huge advantage because the magic we rely on for our highest security doesn’t work on them; the rakshasa CAN lie in a zone of truth and can look a top Medani agent in the eye without its true nature being exposed.
  • The majority of the agents of the Lords of Dust are mortal “pawns.” Some of these are what Exploring Eberron calls loyalist cultists, who know the power they serve and and proud of this allegiance. But just as many are devoted to SOMETHING or SOMEONE but don’t realize that this is a fiend or a creation of fiends. Again, the Lords of Dust have been working at this since before human civilization existed, and they are shapeshifting, mind-reading fiends with a map of the future. They have created political movements, art movements, devoted groups of friends, what have you — all to gain pawns who will do a favor at the precise moment it’s needed, likely never knowing the full significance of that favor. One of the most important functions of a pawn is to be in a useful position that allows a rakshasa to temporarily take their place at critical moments. It’s a waste to have a rakshasa working as a clerk in the royal archives of Breland for thirty years. But the Lords of Dust may have a PAWN working as a clerk, and on the three days where there’s something vitally important that the Lords of Dust need in the archives, a rakshasa can take the pawn’s place and accomplish those tasks. Again, it’s almost impossible to identify these pawns, because FOR THE REMAINING THIRTY YEARS that pawn is just a loyal clerk doing their job and they don’t even KNOW what the rakshasa did or why it did it when they let it take their place.

So the story of the Dreaming Dark is one of aliens infiltrating our world. The story of the Lords of Dust is one of discovering that aliens infiltrated our world thousands of years ago and have been secretly pulling the strings ever since. The goal in dealing with the Lords of Dust isn’t to UTTERLY DEFEAT THE LORDS OF DUST. They’re simply too deeply entrenched, not to mention immortal, and again, they are actually part of the status quo of society as we know it. You’ve lived alongside them all your life, and they NEED the world to generally be stable; if they need you assassinate Queen Aurala in order to free Sul Khatesh, they need there to be a Queen Aurala. So the goal is to disrupt their immediate plans so that they will go back to the drawing board and scheme for another two centuries while our lives go on as normal.

When dealing with the Lords of Dust, part of the question is what you’re actually dealing with. You can use them in small ways or as major villains. Here’s a quick overview.

  • Lone Wolves. The schemes of the Lords of Dust unfold over the course of centuries. What do they do to pass the time in the space in between? Adventurers could clash with a fiend who, while technically tied to the Lords of Dust, is pursuing an entirely personal agenda. A lone rakshasa could be playing a game with a mortal family—say, killing the second child of each family member when that child reaches their 22nd birthday—just for fun. They could start a cult of serial killers because it amuses them to do so. They could seek revenge on a dragon that annoyed them a thousand years ago. In creating lesser fiends, consider that they are likely to share some traits with the overlord they serve. Minions of Sul Khatesh may be interested in arcane experiments, minions of Rak Tulkhesh may enjoy murder and cruelty, and minions of Eldrantuklu love intrigues. So essentially, you can have a villainous fiend—even a member of the Lords of Dust—without the adventure being about THE LORDS OF DUST.
  • Doing What They Love. Mordakhesh and Rak Tulkhesh love to spread war and hatred. Hektula and Sul Khatesh love to have people using magic in ways that sow fear. These schemes don’t necessarily AMOUNT to anything; they are literally just a way to pass the time for a few centuries while they wait for their next release-the-overlord possibility to come around. In general, you can think of this as “feeding the overlord.” It’s not like Rak Tulkhesh can starve to death, but if Mordakhesh can feed him war he is HAPPY and that in turn pleases Mordakhesh. So he LIKES to sow hatred even when there’s no world-shattering threat involved, as long as he doesn’t cause so much chaos that it interferes with future plans. So you can fight an evil wizard who’s empowered by Sul Khatesh and do something good by defeating them, but the FATE OF THE WORLD was never at stake and Hektula herself doesn’t care too much. You did a good thing that protected the local community from that wizard, but it’s not like Hektula will vow vengeance because she has literally done THOUSANDS OF TIMES. Sometimes the seeds grow into beautiful bloody flowers, sometimes troublesome adventurers stop them. No big deal… she’ll plant more.
  • Butterfly Collectors. It’s possible that one or more of your characters has a critical role to play in events that will trigger the release of Sul Khatesh… two hundred years from now. The whole idea of manipulating the Prophecy is that it takes generations to play out. As such, it’s possible that a Lord of Dust needs the adventurers to do something that doesn’t threaten them or the world in the present day, and that could even be useful to them. Consider The Hobbit: Gandalf could be a disguised rakshasa, who brings the dwarves to the Shire, convinces Bilbo to join their company, and helps them defeat Smaug because he knows that if Bilbo joins them he WILL find the One Ring, and he’s just laying the groundwork for the events of The Lord of The Rings, which will occur a century later. But in the short term, Bilbo and his friends defeat a dragon, find a magic ring, have great adventures and become friends. This is exactly the sort of thing a Lord of Dust could set in motion; it not only SEEMS innocent, it IS innocent… until a century later, when the fate of the world is determined by these events. Remember that the Lords of Dust are limited by needing the correct mortals to fulfill the Prophecy, because they need things to happen in the proper way. In this example, Hektula might know EXACTLY where the Ring is the whole time, but she needs BILBO to defeat Golumn in the battle of riddles and to claim it himself.
  • Loyalist Cults. Many pawns work for the Lords of Dust without knowing it. But all of the overlords have cults that DO know who they work for and revel in it. The Carrion Tribes of the Demon Wastes are examples of this, but there can be fiend cults throughout Khorvaire. If you need a quick minor villain, great, use an overlord cult. This is in the middle of this list because it can go in either direction. The cultists could be engaged in a scheme that will lead to the release of an overlord, or they could just be in that “doing what they love” role. Rak Tulkhesh loves to have cults shedding blood, and it could be that’s all that’s going on—and you stopping that cult is just a good thing for everyone. Or it could be that the actions of that cult are part of an early stage of releasing an overlord. The question there is whether a) by the time the adventurers defeat the cult, they have already done the critical action they needed to perform to push the prophecy to the next level or b) whether the cult being defeated WAS PART OF THE PLAN ALL ALONG. Because that’s the way the Lords of Dust work; they may have pushed their cult into your path because they NEEDED you to defeat them. Exploring Eberron discusses the cults of five different overlords.
  • Releasing an Overlord. This is the main event: the idea that the Lords of Dust are working toward the release of an overlord, and that a release—or at least a partial release—could occur in the course of a campaign. This requires the Lords of Dust to get a particular path of the Draconic Prophecy to pass; this is discussed in this article. The critical point is that these are things that have MANY steps and you’re just coming in at the end; they have likely been working on this for centuries, and these are the last steps. So usually this is something that adventurers will discover at a critical point and then have to fight on multiple steps. The challenge is that the rakshasa have a map of the future and the adventurers don’t. As noted above, it could be that by the time the adventurers defeat a cult they’ve already accomplished what they needed to do, or it could be that defeating the cult was part of the plan.
  • Rebinding an Overlord. Here’s the thing: preventing the release of an overlord isn’t nearly as much fun as rebinding an overlord that has been partially released. If you successfully keep the plan from succeeding, you never actually get to see how bad things could be. History is full of moments when the plans of the Lords of Dust were blocked and NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT THEM. But everybody knows about Tira Miron’s sacrifice to rebind Bel Shalor, because the Shadow in the Flame WAS partially released and terrorized Thrane for months before Tira figured out how he could be defeated… which meant identifying a different path of the Prophecy (she needed to be channeling a couatl; to be wielding Kloijner; to fight him at a particular place and time; to be working with specific allies). A campaign involving the partial release of an overlord gives all sorts of opportunities to battle fiends and unravel mysteries, and to ultimately fight an aspect of the overlord (which is what the stat blocks in Rising represent, though they are MUCH weaker than the overlords presented in third edition)… While a campaign in which the adventurers just block the release can feel anticlimactic.

You might well say “If the Lords of Dust are so powerful, why don’t they just kill the player characters the moment they become a threat?” Because sure, from a mechanical standpoint they easily could. They have hundreds of rakshasas—possibly thousands—epic magic and countless pawns in positions of power. The reason they don’t turn all the power against the adventurers is because they need the player characters—or at least, believe that they MIGHT need the player characters. You know how we always say that player characters are remarkable and that they’re the heroes of the age? That’s because they are PROPHETICALLY SIGNIFICANT. It may be that the Lords of Dust have specific plans that they need to use the PCs for (Hektula needs you to kill Queen Aurala to release an overlord) or it could be that they are just the first dominos in a long line (Hektula needs your wizard’s GREAT-GRANDAUGHTER to kill Aurala’s great-grandsonand your wizard doesn’t even have any children yet). They may not even KNOW what role they need you for, but they know you’re significant and they’re figuring it out. This is why pawns of the Lords of Dust tend not to be the people IN power, but rather the advisors, the scribes, the people in the background. The Lords of Dust can’t force the actions of prophetic lynchpins without derailing the prophecy. They couldn’t just replace Lhazaar with a rakshasa or use dominate person (which any raksahsa can cast) on her; they needed her to CHOOSE to go to Khorvaire. It’s the same here. They can manipulate the adventurers by manipulating the events around them, but they can’t just mind control them or replace them.

One way to think about it is rats in a scientist’s maze. Your PC is a rat and the Wyrmbreaker wants you to go down a particular path. He can try to lure you to go the way he wants—drop a piece of cheese down the right path—but he can’t just PUSH you down the path or the experiment becomes invalid. Should you at the final moment FAIL to go down the proper path, he’s not going to kill the rat; what’s the point? Instead he’s going to put you back in the cage and start figuring out the next experiment. Because that’s the thing: there will ALWAYS be a way to release the overlords. The moment Tira rebound Bel Shalor, a new path for his release began to take shape. It could take centuries for the Lords of Dust to identify that new path, and a thousand years before they have a chance to make it happen, but they WILL figure it out. Dustoran has tried and failed HUNDREDS OF TIMES. When you foil his plot, he’s going to just move on to the next one. And let’s face it, even if he was certain he has no further use for you, he doesn’t NEED to kill you. You’re mortal. If you’re human, you’ll be dead in a few decades; he’ll still be here in ten thousand years.

That’s all for now! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for posing this question and for making these articles possible!

95 thoughts on “Dragonmark: The Tricks of the Lords of Dust

  1. “The Lords of Dust have been manipulating the people of Khorvaire since before there were people on Khorvaire. They don’t need to subvert people as the Dreaming Dark does, because they have a vast network of pawns that have been serving them for many generations.”

    What was stopping the Lords of Dust from manipulating the giants (e.g. via Sakinnirot), the newborn elven nations in Aerenal, or the old human kingdoms of Sarlona?

    • Absolutely nothing? We know there are overlords on all of those continents and there are cults of the dragon below in Argonessen even. It’s just that the cultists are dragons there instead of humanoids.

    • What was stopping the Lords of Dust from manipulating the giants (e.g. via Sakinnirot), the newborn elven nations in Aerenal, or the old human kingdoms of Sarlona?
      Nothing was stopping them from infiltrating those nations. Lhazaar had a rakshasa advisor, remember? I didn’t specifically mention it, but the Lords of Dust have been all over the world since the Age of Demons.

    • The kingdoms of Sarlona clearly had fiendish influence and still likely do among the Riedran Unity. Ohr Kaluun and Corvaruga had aspects of their cultures that lend towards fiendish cooperation, Nulakesh likely pleased Rak Tulkhesh and Pyrine’s far flung priests and mild scholarly temperment are ripe for Sul Khatesh (to say nothing of Khunan’s wizards who live OVER a fiend). And Rhivaar where Lhaazar came from has sites in Dragons of Eberron on the coastline which have demonglass and ancient rakshasa sites in them.

      • Definitely. Page 9 of Secrets of Sarlona say “While the Dreaming Dark is integrally tied to Sarlona, it isn’t the only force of evil in this land. The Lords of Dust once ruled all of Eberron, and devious rakshasas haunt Sarlona as well.” The Heirs of Ohr Kaluun, the Horned Shadow, the Yuan-ti… the Edgewalkers definitely have their hands full.

    • Per City of Stormreach, Kashurashan is a rakshasa that has been monitoring Stormreach since before the downfall of the giants for fifty thousand years who provides assistance to other rakshasa who visit. Secrets of Xen’drik mentions the titan Adaxus who twisted his line into fire giants during the Age of Giants through binding fiends and led to a tradition of giants channeling fiends as part of the Battalion of the Basalt Towers, which could always be tied back to Sakinnirot.

      Could be there were rakshasa in the Qabalrin who manipulated the fight between the Shapers of Night and the Unspoken to lead to the Qabalrin getting destroyed by the Heart of Siberys for the Umbragen discovering the Umbra later on for prophecy purposes.

      • Could be there were rakshasa in the Qabalrin who manipulated the fight between the Shapers of Night and the Unspoken to lead to the Qabalrin getting destroyed by the Heart of Siberys for the Umbragen discovering the Umbra later on for prophecy purposes.

        This is a perfect example! It could have been the Lords of Dust who pushed the giants to destroy the thirteenth moon. It could have been the Lords of Dust who helped Jhazaal Dhakaan unite the Six Kings. Ultimately, it doesn’t MATTER because whatever they were doing was resolved long ago. But any major historical event at any point in Eberron’s history COULD potentially have involved the Lords of Dust.

  2. What has been stopping the enemies of fiends (e.g. dragons, various forms of the Silver Flame across the world and across history) from sidestepping these creatures’ immortality by petrifying and imprisoning them, ala Dreadhold?

    A captured rakshasa gets petrified by a common basilisk eventually, after all.

    • You could also ask what’s stopped the LoD from killing every single dragon on the face of Argonessen. I feel that’s the flip side to the same question, and has a similar answer. The dragons could petrify hundreds of lesser fiends, but there’s the logistical question of where you’re going to keep them all and how you’re going to prevent other fiends from freeing them, or even other dragons who have decided to throw their lot in with the Overlords.

    • The same thing that stops agents of these powers from smashing the statues to kill them (allowing them to reanimate). Little to nothing. There’s even a Keeper of the Flame in Dreadhold who drew her power from Bel Shalor.

      How common is a basilisk before they rose from Khyber? Orlassk’s minions may well hunt down a rakshasa to do that but dragons and Silver Flame worshipers might not have as much luck.

      And in the meantime, whats to stop the Lords of Dust from petrifying dragons, kalok shash, and couatls? There’s arcane magic that THEY were some of the first wielders of that does this very thing.

      There very well might be tombs/vaults of petrified warriors from the Age of Demons waiting in silent sealed petrification for the moment their faction can free them.

    • A captured rakshasa gets petrified by a common basilisk eventually, after all.

      Only if you want it to. It’s always up to the DM to decide how to interpret and employ the rules. The effect of the basilisk’s gaze is effectively the same as flesh to stone; flesh to stone is a 6th level spell; rakshasa are immune to 6th level spells. As a DM, you can say “But it’s a supernatural ability, it’s completely different.” But as a DM, *I* can say “The two abilities are similar; the basilisk is a CR 3 creature and the rakshasa is CR 13; the rakshasa is immune to a basilisk’s gaze.”

      So if you decide basilisks can petrify rakshasa, you could absolutely have a citadel of the Silver Flame filled with petrified rakshasa, and there could also be a moment in history where that citadel was destroyed. In MY campaign it’s not an issue.

      • What of fiends other than rakshasas? Surely, those could be petrified, even if you personally rule that rakshasas are immune?

        • I’m not sure what sort of answer you want from me? Petrifying fiends seems like a good approach way to deal with them because it keeps them from regenerating. We’ve never mentioned it being widespread in Khorvaire, likely because Flesh to Stone is way above the everyday magic level and the Church of the Silver Flame has never domesticated basilisks (who may actually be comparitively recent creations of Orlassk). It’s entirely possible Argonnessen has prisons of petrified fiends, and if so, equally likely there have been some legendary jailbreaks.

      • Saying the Basilian ability is like flesh to stone and therefore doesn’t work on a rakshasa is like saying meteor swarm is like fireball and therefore will not work on rakshasa. They are different and conflating them in that manner is simply sidestepping an issue with the rules. Your advice is usually closer to the rules.

        • They are different and conflating them in that manner is simply sidestepping an issue with the rules. Your advice is usually closer to the rules.

          I’m sad that you see it that way. My basic point on this sort of question is to start from the answer that we already have and to work backwards. We’ve never mentioned the use of petrification to deal with fiends. We’ve never mentioned the idea that the Church of the Silver Flame or Argonnessen domesticates basilisks for this purpose. Which leaves two possibilities: either they’ve just never THOUGHT of it, and it’s a great idea that they could begin to implement now—which could be a fun plotline for a campaign!—or there’s a REASON that they haven’t employed this strategy.

          Here’s the thing: THE RULES ARE ALWAYS CHANGING. I’ve worked on Eberron through three different editions. Notably, Eberron’s approach to dragons is very much based in 3.5 rules and they took a steep power dive since then — just as the overlord in Rising From The Last War are FAR weaker than their counterparts in 3.5. So there are always going to be questions that hinge on a particular rule undermining a particular point of lore, and the issue is that two years from now, the rules could be different. So I prefer to start with the existing lore (the Silver Flame doesn’t have domesticated basilisks) and work backwards (there’s a reason basilisks aren’t the perfect weapon in the war against the Lords of Dust) adding the best explanation I can with the existing mechanics (rakshasa are incredibly resistant to many forms of magic) as opposed to completely changing the lore to account for Argonnessen having basilisk brigades… because if that works, they SHOULD, given that they’ve been fighting the Lords of Dust for a hundred thousand years.

          But as I say in the comment: if YOU WANT TO IMPLEMENT THAT CHANGE IN YOUR CAMPAIGN, you definitely should! But I DON’T want to do it in MY campaign, and my justification is going to be the rakshasa resistance.

    • Having slept on the basilisks-petrifying-rakshasa story, I’ve changed my mind on how I’d handle it.

      Basilisks are creations of the daelkyr Orlaask. One of the things we’ve called out is that even immortals fear the daelkyr. I think it’s entirely reasonable to say that Orlassk could have created basilisks in part TO introduce something into the world that could trap immortals.

      However, the fact that they are creations of Orlaask means that basilisks aren’t widespread in the world and that in the grand scheme of things, they haven’t been around that long. And rakshasa ARE immune to the flesh to stone spell, the tool that mortals have had access to during the hundred thousand years of the First War. So petrifying immortals didn’t become a big thing because it didn’t use to work, and because they HAD a method with a similar result (binding them in Khyber shards).

      Now basilisks DO exist, but there’s never been a time and place where people have DISCOVERED that a basilisk can petrify a rakshasa. The Lords of Dust maintain an extremely low profile and basilisks are only now starting to see a wider spread with the rise of Droaam. The dragons scratched “petrification” off their list because Flesh to Stone doesn’t work on rakshasa and it never occurred to them that “While my 6th level spell doesn’t work, maybe the gaze of this CR 3 lizard will.” BUT IT DOES. So the point is that the adventurers can DISCOVER this phenomenon during an adventure in Droaam—and when they do, this fact will BECOME very interesting to both the Chamber and the Church of the Silver Flame, and we may start to see the Church domesticating basilisks. But again, as with so many things, I am always more interested in a story in which the adventurers play a central role. So sure, basilisks can petrify rakshasa; but I need an adventurer to discover that.

  3. Do rakshasas have any items or rituals to help them regain memories or parts of their identities if they are set back by reforming after a death?

    • Not established, and I wouldn’t make it a uniform thing for all rakshasa. Personally I prefer to explore the idea that the “named” rakshasa truly are unique, and also reflect the overlord that spawned them. So I could see that Hektula has a book in Ashtalaka into which she’s invested some of her essence, and when she returns she reads the book and it restores her. Mordakhesh might have a sword hidden in a crypt; whenever he returns he reclaims the sword, and each mortal he kills with it restores some of his memories; when he is fully restored he hides it away again. So sort of like a phylactery, but unique to the fiend.

  4. “Shii marhu polto huuntad ka ruuska atchot.” — Even an emperor must think twice when looking into the eye of a tiger.

    We have glimpses of rakshasa meddling in ancient Khorvaire events like the exodus of Lhazaar, but are there any notable examples of when the Lords of Dust tampered with other cultures of Khorvaire like the Dhakaani Empire?

    • are there any notable examples of when the Lords of Dust tampered with other cultures of Khorvaire like the Dhakaani Empire?

      Not that I can think of offhand, but the point is that they definitely DID tamper with other major cultures. It’s possible Hektula helped Jhazaal create the Uul Dhakaan, or that Tul Oreshka was in some way responsible for triggering the Xoriat incursion or caused chaos in the aftermath of it. It’s possible that Rak Tulkhesh drove the war of the Six Kings, and that it was a dragon who helped Jhazaal Dhakaan unite the Six Kings and in the process prevented the release of Rak Tulkhesh.

  5. Love the article, thank so much Keith! The rakshasa and the lords of dust are quite interesting indeed.

    Now a question. In Lhazaars odyssey there wasn’t only a rakshasa, but in dragons of eberron one of the crew was also a dragon. How close can dragons and rakshasa be to each other without noticing, and could they work for the same thing IE humans to khorvaire. But for different motivations of course.

    • Now a question. In Lhazaars odyssey there wasn’t only a rakshasa, but in dragons of eberron one of the crew was also a dragon. How close can dragons and rakshasa be to each other without noticing, and could they work for the same thing IE humans to khorvaire. But for different motivations of course.

      Rakshasa can’t be detected by detect evil and good. You can’t spot them with true seeing. So what exactly would the dragon spy do to spot the rakshasa? Conversely, the default 5E rakshasa HAS true seeing once per day. So on the surface it seems quite likely that the fiend would spot the dragon before the dragon spotted the fiend, and then it would be up to the raksahsa to be very careful to avoid blowing its cover. This is also why the Lords of Dust often rely on pawns who DON’T know the master plan, so that they can’t easily be identified.

      On the other hand, I think there are many situations in which a dragon and a rakshasa DO know about one another — that it’s a cold war. They don’t all have perfect knowledge of the Prophecy; they know the paths they are working on. It’s entirely possible that both spies knew about each other; that both needed Lhazaar; but that each had their own slight twist on her agenda, and they were knowingly playing a game of Conqueror with Lhazaar as the board.

      • Now I’m imagining a sitcom scenario with a dragon and a raskhasa both serving as advisors to the same noble, who both know about the other but can’t ever blow their cover with an all out battle because that would spoil both of their prophecies, so they resort to merely annoying each other in any way they can.

  6. How can PCs oppose the schemes of the Lord of Dust if it isn’t possible to know what those schemes are without access to prophecy? The conditions for releasing an Overlord are arbitrary, so whether or not having heroes foil the apparent plot is actually a part of the real plot seems like a coin toss. Frodo could be reasonably sure that him destroying the One Ring while being convinced that that was the only way to defeat Sauron wasn’t actually Sauron’s plan all along, but that sort of assumption does not seem safe for his Eberron analogue.

    • The same way Frodo did. A powerful entity disguised as a friendly mentor tricked him into doing something like he’d tricked his cousin decades prior. The dragons are the quickest method for the PCs to become involved but there’s also the tried and true method of “the overlord is already partially unsealed and cards need to be on the table NOW” that helps high level PCs get in on the fun

    • How can PCs oppose the schemes of the Lord of Dust if it isn’t possible to know what those schemes are without access to prophecy?

      Generally, they can’t. But you don’t have to understand the ENTIRE PROPHECY (and no one does) to learn a specific piece of it. In the short term, opposing the Lords of Dust generally means taking the obvious action—if Mordakhesh is causing a war, you stop him, and hopefully you don’t find out two years later that your stopping him was part of his plan. To actually play the game on his level you need to be able to understand his goal, which means learning about at least a piece of the Prophecy he’s trying to fulfill. How do you do this? The easiest answer is that you get help from a dragon, who can share its knowledge of the Prophecy with you — either openly, or in the guise of a mentor or ally. Failing that, Sora Teraza or the Undying Court could help. Or you could deal with a mortal sage who just happens to have figured out the one critical piece.

      Another unusual option is that you get help from ONE OF THE LORDS OF DUST. In the Middle Earth analogy, Sauron pretty clearly would BE an overlord, and he’s going to be released when he gets the ring. But each overlord has their own path to release, and Gandalf is working with the overlord who needs the Ring to be destroy so they can be released. The Lords of Dust TRY to avoid working at direct cross purposes like this — that’s part of what the Bleak Council does — but sometimes it’s inevitable.

      • Would you say that actions that free Overlords are always “evil” from the perspective of someone who does not know the prophecy? In an earlier article, you use the following example:

        > Their actions don’t always make sense to us because we don’t understand the dominoes they are lining up. Why are they helping Aurala? What’s that do for them? We’ll find out when she’s murdered on the day of her coronation and Sul Khatesh is released from her bonds.

        In this context, those who know the prophecy might consider murdering Aurala as a child a necessary evil, and PCs who save her might be unknowingly receiving assistance from the Lords of Dust. But ultimately if they also protect her at her coronation, the Overlord is not freed. So specific “good” acts could put the world in great danger, but “evil” acts are never absolutely necessary. Would you say that that’s the general rule?

        • Would you say that actions that free Overlords are always “evil” from the perspective of someone who does not know the prophecy?

          Part of the question is how you define “actions that free overlords.” If you haven’t read it yet, I’d suggest reading this article. As a rule I’d say that the FINAL ACTION IN THE CHAIN should be something that feels like it has at least SOME sort of logical connection to the overlord—that the final action that releases Rak Tulkhesh should be an act of war or hatred, that the final action that releases Eldrantulku should be a betrayal. But there are centuries of lesser actions leading up to it. As I say elsewhere, I could see Gandalf in The Hobbit setting the events that lead to Smaug’s death and Bilbo’s discovery of the Ring in motion, because his REAL goal is to set up the events of The Lord of the Rings a century later. But if you’re not a scholar of the Prophecy, you’d never know that is what he’s doing and wouldn’t see it as evil. A rakshasa convinced Lhazaar to go to Khorvaire. That action wasn’t evil, and that action didn’t release an overlord; it was building a foundation for something that would come far later.

          As to the question of whether it’s justified to kill Aurala as a child so she can’t be killed at her coronation, first of all, as others have said, I can’t possibly conclusively solve such a fundamental question of moral philosophy. The two things I’d say are that in this example there IS a more human way to resolve the problem (just protect Aurala at her coronation) and also that when you break the Prophecy it spins a new thread. So there’s an aspect where this is like breaking Enigma. If the Chamber has recognized that Aurala-being-killed-at-her-coronation is the final step in a chain that will release Sul Khatesh, it means that they conclusively know HOW Sul Khatesh can currently be released and have a clear path to stopping it; if they kill Aurala as a child, the Prophecy will spin a NEW path for releasing Sul Khatesh, and it’s possible the Chamber won’t actually find that path; no one has complete knowledge of the Prophecy. But ALSO, if Aurala is a prophetically significant character, it’s quite possible that she plays a role in other paths that the Chamber DOES want to come to pass… so further, just killing her essentially wrecks a whole lot of probability maps.

  7. It sounds like the Lords of Dust make great warlock patrons. You can play a lawful good warlock whose patron dosnt force them to do anything because simply giving you that power made a ripple effect they needed. Kinda like what you said with the golden fiddle.

    Another question: You mentioned most of the lords of dust are Rakshasa. Are there any other demons within the lords of dust worth mentioning? Or does it not really matter and any old fiend serves the purpose?

    • Another question: You mentioned most of the lords of dust are Rakshasa. Are there any other demons within the lords of dust worth mentioning? Or does it not really matter and any old fiend serves the purpose?

      As others have already mentioned, the original article quoted here includes a succubus and pit fiend on the Bleak Council. Beyond that, Khyber can produce fiends with the stats of any devil or demon if it suits the needs of the story; it’s just that rakshasa are the most common fiends of Khyber.

        • Yes and no. It certainly makes sense that abishai are associated with the Daughter of Khyber. That doesn’t mean that they necessarily make up the bulk of her forces within the Lords of Dust; she could also have rakshasa with draconic features instead of tiger features. The important thing to keep in mind is that the vast majority of the overlords’ forces were bound at the same time they were. The fact that the most common native fiends are rakshasa doesn’t mean that they WERE the most common fiends in the Age of Demons, it means that they are the bulk of the native fiends who remain unbound in the present… which makes sense, because with their magic resistance, they are far harder to bind than most types of fiends. They managed to slip through the net that caught the others. And because of their ability to disguise, to read thoughts, to evade divination magic they are exceptionally well suited to the undercover work which is what the Lords of Dust mainly do. Abishai are more reflective of the Daughter of Khyber’s nature, but a white abishai doesn’t have a lot of abilities that will help them infiltrate a dragonmarked house. But you could certainly say that there is a small force of abishai that have either escaped their bonds or were never bound serving the Daughter of Khyber.

  8. Are there fiendish equivalents to the “rogue dragons” of Eberron? Khyber Fiends (as opposed to fiends of Fierna, Mabar, etc), even rakshasa, who don’t care about the Prophecy? Just mean so-and-sos who never leave the “doing what they love” stage of action and don’t take part in the schemes and long-term strategy? Or is their immortal nature more likely to draw them towards serving their master?

    Do rakshasa (and other Khyber fiends) choose their overlord or are they born of the stuff to serve their overlord? Can a rakshasa defect (some Overlords like the Oathbreaker might even poach minions or even encourage minions to betray them)?

    Do the people of Eberron know of the association between tigers and rakshasa? You mentioned a possibility of shark-rakshasa on your patreon, does this suggest that rakshasa run the usual gamut of head/body forms (apes, mantis, vultures, crocodiles, and more) that rakshasa had traditionally?

    • Are there fiendish equivalents to the “rogue dragons” of Eberron? Khyber Fiends (as opposed to fiends of Fierna, Mabar, etc), even rakshasa, who don’t care about the Prophecy?
      Certainly.

      Do rakshasa (and other Khyber fiends) choose their overlord or are they born of the stuff to serve their overlord? Can a rakshasa defect (some Overlords like the Oathbreaker might even poach minions or even encourage minions to betray them)?
      OK, there’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, one of the things that defines immortals in Eberron is that THEY DON’T GET TO CHOOSE THEIR PATH. They’re incarnate ideas, cogs shaped to perform a very specific function in a metaphysical machine. In my opinion most lesser fiends are essentially extensions of an overlord and embody some aspect of its core concept. The rakshasa of Rak Tulkhesh are spirits of war and hatred, while the rakshasa of Sul Khatesh are spirits of secrets and magic. They are not as EXTREME as the overlords and can share the same basic traits… But as an exercise sometime I could definitely see making a list of basic traits that could be applied to ANY fiend associated with a particular overlord, so we establish fundamental things about what it means to be a fiend of Rak Tulkhesh. More on this shortly.

      In any case, what that means is that it’s very RARE for a rakshasa to betray its overlord, because in doing so it’s essentially betraying itself. Eldrantulku’s minions would be top of the list. I’d personally consider that Eldrantulku’s minions would also be among those most likely to try the usurp the overlord’s power rather than freeing the overlord. BUT the main point is that it would be about as rare as a quori betraying the Dreaming Dark — which is to say rare, but over the course of a hundred thousand years, something that has surely happened.

      Do the people of Eberron know of the association between tigers and rakshasa? You mentioned a possibility of shark-rakshasa on your patreon, does this suggest that rakshasa run the usual gamut of head/body forms (apes, mantis, vultures, crocodiles, and more) that rakshasa had traditionally?

      In my opinion the default shapes should be seen as just that — a starting point. I’ve often said that you should cosmetically reflavor fiends or celestials from different planes, and I think you could do the same for fiends tied to different overlords. Personally, I see the tiger-form as a form the Lords of Dust use WHEN INTERACTING WITH ONE ANOTHER as opposed to their actual natural shape—that Mordakhesh and Hektula could have very different true forms that mirror their overlords, but they wear the tiger-shapes as a sort of formal uniform. This is weakened by 5E’s choice to give the raksahsa disguise self instead of physical shapeshifting; with physical shapeshfiting, the point is that their form is whatever they want it to be, while DS is just an illusion. Again, I could see this being part of a larger article that breaks down the traits of fiends tied to different overlords.

      • These days, I eschew the idea of directly animalistic monsters in D&D to a large extent. I’d rather think of rakshasa as fiends which superficially resemble tigers -fangs, stripes, cat eyes, maybe fur – than fiends that literally have tigers’ heads. Rakshasas in Indian culture aren’t portrayed as literally tiger-headed, after all.

        • Exactly. I said that Hektula’s natural form should “reflect her overlord.” That’s Sul Khatesh, Keeper of Secrets and Queen of Shadows. I wouldn’t expert her true form to be “A humanoid with the head of a platypus,” I’d expect it to be a hooded figure of shadows, where you can’t quite see what’s below the hood but you know you WANT to.

          • A platypus-headed figure would be even more terrifying than a tiger. You can’t hide that level of fiendishness.

          • Would the the gender of the form also reflect the overlord? Both Hektula and Mordakesh share gender with their overlord. Or that’s more coincidence?

  9. Is it possible to create a fake prophecy? Like if the Lords of Dust created a fake section of the prophecy to fool the dragons to prevent them from interfering with one of their plans or trick them into making another prophecy come true?

    • It’s theoretically possible, certainly. The question is what it would take to forge a Prophecy mark. But it’s an entirely plausible hook to use in a campaign.

  10. Only tangentially related but since you mention the dreaming dark possession I wanted to ask. So the 5e statblocks have all Quori being able to possess a humanoid they are within 5ft of. Now do they have to be within 5ft of the actual body (being nearly impossible since planar travel between Dal Quor and Eberron is nearly unheard of) or do they just have to be within 5ft of the human’s “dream form” when they are dreaming in Dal Quor and can then effectively wake up in Eberron possessing the human body? The latter one seems to go counter to what I remember about the Quori and them only being able to possess a willing host so my guess would be it’s an ability they just rarely have the opportunity to use.

    • The latter one seems to go counter to what I remember about the Quori and them only being able to possess a willing host so my guess would be it’s an ability they just rarely have the opportunity to use.

      Exactly so. It’s very rare that you will ever meet a quori in person, but if you do, watch out! However, under normal circumstances they require a victim to voluntarily allow the possession.

  11. I always default to Gandalf as an example of a Chamber observer dragon so seeing him used as a potential example of a rakshasa is a fun idea I hadn’t considered!

    The question about quori made me think of the fiendish possession rules for creatures and objects outlined in the Eberron Campaign Setting, which are different from the Possession supernatural ability given to the quori who are limited to willing humans. How might a fiend with the Lords of Dust with the ability to possess a person or object use it differently from how a quori of the Dreaming Dark might use their possession powers?

    • And of course the spell-like abilities that the more powerful Lords of Dust like Lorishto and the prakhutu/exarch Durastoran the Wyrmbreaker have access to as ak’chazar rakshasa like trap the soul and magic jar on top of other unqiue abilities depending on their individual patron.

    • How might a fiend with the Lords of Dust with the ability to possess a person or object use it differently from how a quori of the Dreaming Dark might use their possession powers?

      It’s about that difference in goals. The quori are trying to CONQUER. The Lords of Dust are trying to PURSUE PROPHECY. The Lords of Dust largely don’t need to possess to infiltrate, because they can infiltrate easily enough through mundane methods and loooooong planning and preparation. So I think they’d be more likely to use voluntary possession as a temporary way to empower champions rather than as an ongoing, long-term form of infiltration.

  12. It has been said in the past that Mordakhesh is partially behind the resurgence of the Three Faces of War cult during the Last War. It does make me wonder, given the mythological Sovereigns fought the Overlords, be it from the Pyreen perspective, the Warm Ascendant or the Thir…

    Does the modern faith of the Sovereign Host give much thought or concern to the Lords of Dust and their possible machinations and manipulation?

    • Does the modern faith of the Sovereign Host give much thought or concern to the Lords of Dust and their possible machinations and manipulation?

      Kind of? I’ve discussed this in previous articles. Everyone knows there are demons, just as they know there are lycanthropes, aberrations that could crawl up from Khyber, and that the graveyard could be full of ghouls. These are simple facts. What people do NOT know is the name “The Lords of Dust” or that they are IN FACT manipulating all of the major institutions of Khorvaire. They believe that there ARE demons, and that they ARE scheming, and that occasionally the Templars of the Silver Flame expose and destroy one, the same way they are watchful for vampires and werewolves. But they think they are on that same scale as vampires and werewolves—not that they are a pervasive conspiracy with a vast web of pawns on every level of society. That’s going to be dismissed as paranoid conspiracy—especially in the papers run by Mordakhesh and in the reports put together by Hektula.

      The point of the Lords of Dust is that they are the Illuminati. People may have heard the stories, but most people believe that they are only stories.

  13. Does Masvirik have powerful lords of dust working for him (I know he doesn’t have a speaker) or were his high ups all bound in dusk shards? I would assume he does but in most info I can find it speaks of his work being done mainly through the cults (black scale and poison dusk) with some of them being controlled by the fiendish influence in the dusk shards and also through the unintentional help of House Tharashk.

    • I’d imagine if there were rakshasa working for the Cold Sun, that “help” from House Tharashk might be a lot less unintentional that it appears . . .

  14. If the Lords of Dust are the old guard among the conspiracies of Khorvaire, while the Dreaming Dark is the new kids on the block, then would the Lords of Dust not stop and take notice when their assets are coincidentally co-opted by dream manipulation, mind seeds, quori possession, etc.? Would the Dreaming Dark not quickly realize that they are subverting assets of another, far older conspiracy?

    • If the Lords of Dust are the old guard among the conspiracies of Khorvaire, while the Dreaming Dark is the new kids on the block, then would the Lords of Dust not stop and take notice when their assets are coincidentally co-opted by dream manipulation, mind seeds, quori possession, etc.? Would the Dreaming Dark not quickly realize that they are subverting assets of another, far older conspiracy?

      The Quori would know, certainly. And the point is that this surely happens to them ALL THE TIME. The Chamber. The Lords of Dust. The many cults of the Dragon Below. The Trust and all the other spy organizations. Part of the point is that the quori are NEVER going to just mind seed someone at random, because it’s INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS for all sorts of reasons. So they are going to study the target’s dreams. They’re going to study their memories, both before and after they mind seed them. First of all, they may recognize that the person is a pawn in someone else’s game and for that reason choose to have nothing to do with them. Second, if they choose to go ahead with it anyway, they will likely try to MAINTAIN THE COVER and continue to work for THAT AGENCY. if they recognize they’ve taken over a pawn of the Lords of Dust, they will have them CONTINUE to work as a pawn of the Lords of Dust in addition to working for them so that the Lords of Dust DON’T notice they’ve been coopted. Take that clerk who swaps places with the rakshasa 3 days out of every 30 years. When the quori mind seed hte clerk, they will learn about that arrangement and THEY WILL CONTINUE TO SUPPORT IT because they don’t want to start a war with an unknown force; and when the rakshasa shows up, the clerk will do just what the rakshasa expects and they will go about their business none the wiser.

      Ultimately, this is all about the story you want to tell. If you WANT to have a campaign driven by a shooting war between the Chamber, the Lords of Dust, and the Dreaming Dark, you could HAVE the Dreaming Dark mind seed the wrong person and cause chaos. That’s not the story I personally want, so I assume that the quori are smart enough to handle it — either studying their targets closely enough to identify potential conflicts of interest, being able to have their mind seeds work as successful double agents, or that they would simply KILL the mind seed the moment they realize it’s too dangerous to keep it up, finding a way to do it that can’t be traced to them.

  15. The Bleak Council seems to have an implied system of special positions for certain prakhutus. For example, Hektula helps out the Lords of Dust in general by being the librarian of Ashtakala.

    Do other prakhutus have similar jobs? Is Mordakhesh the one prakhutu everyone relies on when they need a seasoned general? Is Durastoran the chief anti-dragon (and by extension, anti-Chamber) specialist of the Lords of Dust?

    • Yes, I expect that is exactly the case. While they don’t field a unified armor, I expect that Mordakhesh is consulted when anyone needs military advice and that he would handle the defense of Ashtakala if the Chamber were to attack, and yes, Durastoran is likely consulted when someone is having problems with the Chamber.

  16. Hi, Keith! You mention several times that the Lords of Dust have a map of the future. Presumably the Chamber does, too. But are they identical maps? Or does the “map” that the Lords of Dust study have blurry sections with no more detail than “Here be dragons”, while the Chamber see some areas with no more detail than “Here be demons”?
    Also: From the point of view of a group of squishy PCs, is there any proactical difference between being a pawn of the Lords of Dust in the Great Game, or being a pawn of the Chamber? The end goals of the chessmasters are different, but both will sacrifice pawns. Is it the case that the Chamber will avoid intervening to kill off a critical figure (e.g. the grandfather of the one who’ll release an Overlord), because it’s better to keep your eye on the Prophecy you know about rather than intervene early and just create a new strand of Prophecy that oculd take a while to ferret out? Last question (for now): How do non-fiend, non-draconic students of the Prophecy fit in? Back in 3.5 days, there was the specialty class of Dragon Prophesier, characters who, generally under the tutelage of a dragon, learn how to interpret the prophecy. Do such students play any significant role in your Eberron? Or are they just making figurative mud pies on the lawn while the real bakers are crafting their desserts of doom? I suppose a PC Dragon Prophesier might have significant influence, because, you know, PCs are extraordinary. But how?

    • Hi, Keith! You mention several times that the Lords of Dust have a map of the future. Presumably the Chamber does, too. But are they identical maps?

      Not remotely. The map is always changing, after all, and being revealed across the world in different ways (Prophecy marks, movement of dragonmarked characters, etc). At any given time the Lords of Dust only know a tiny number of the paths; I said they know the impact of a FEW butterflies, not all of them. And the dragons know the paths of a few butterflies, but not all of them — and as often as not, they don’t know the same butterflies. If the Chamber had perfect knowledge of all of the paths the Lords of Dust know about, it would be almost impossible for the LoD to ever succeed. They have a chance because the Chamber DOESN’T know all of their paths. And often, when the Chamber does identify an overlord release path, they don’t WANT to cut it because when they do a new path to the overlord’s release will form and they might never find that one; they’re better off letting the path play out as long as possible because they know they CAN deal with it further down the line. (Which is what you theorize later in your very dense question…)

      Also: From the point of view of a group of squishy PCs, is there any practical difference between being a pawn of the Lords of Dust in the Great Game, or being a pawn of the Chamber?
      If you don’t KNOW about it, no. If you DO know about it, well, the Lords of Dust ARE trying to, you know, DESTROY THE WORLD. Dragons are MORE LIKELY to be sympathetic, and you have truly kind dragons like Vvaraak, where there are no truly kind Lords of Dust. However, the Chamber will definitely sacrifice pawns in pursuit of the greater good.

      Do such students play any significant role in your Eberron?
      Sure! Again, NO ONE HAS A FULL MAP OF THE PROPHECY because IT’S ALWAYS CHANGING. A PC student of the Prophecy might not ever be able to grasp the immensity of the Prophecy that the dragons and Lords of Dust are dealing with, but they could very well discover a path of it that the dragons have overlooked!

  17. What would a campaign look like if the premise, from the very start, is that an overlord has already been partially released, and that this half-unbound overlord and their Lords of Dust minions are now attempting a full release? How would that differ from a more conventional campaign against the Lords of Dust?

    I believe Dragon Magazine #337 pitches an idea for a partial release of Sul Khatesh, while #416 proposes an idea for a partial release of Rak Tulkhesh; what are some more general ideas for such a scenario?

    • I’d imagine it’s a more direct “quest” plot. Go do this, find this object, do this ritual. As Keith has said before, it’s not just destroying the avatar that rises out of the binding, but doing so in a way that rebinds them that’s important.

      The party could have Chamber and rival Lords of Dust allies, the Daelkyr may well provide a complication to all sides.

      One example of such a campaign could be the Lycanthropic Inquisition (the Silver Crusade, the Lycan Purge, etc) where the Wild Heart’s partial release is heralded by what the history books remember as a notable but not apocalyptic event. What caused the curse to change again to the less deadly one? A crack team of templar or a “Suicide Squad” of adventurers could have been responsible

    • The mourning is a partial release would be a hook if so. Discover leads in the mournland about the overlord. Find prophecy to seal the overlord.

      • The mourning is a partial release would be a hook if so. Discover leads in the mournland about the overlord. Find prophecy to seal the overlord.
        Exactly so. It’s entirely possible the Mournland is the result of the partial release of an overlord — a more dramatic form of the Year of Blood and Fire in Thrane — and that the adventurers need to find a way to return it to its prison before it fully escapes.

    • What would a campaign look like if the premise, from the very start, is that an overlord has already been partially released, and that this half-unbound overlord and their Lords of Dust minions are now attempting a full release?

      It would look like the Year of Blood and Fire in Thrane, when Tira Miron needed to find a way to rebind Bel Shalor before he could be fully released. Throughout the year, Bel Shalor’s power grows, and Tira has to fight both against the fiends that are opening roaming the land and against the increasing influence of Bel Shalor over the mortals of the region. She needs to find allies who can help, to gain the guidance of the Silver Flame and find a way to channel a rakshasa, to obtain the weapon she needs to battle Bel Shalor and undergo the rituals and challenges required to fully unlock its power. It would be a far more apocalyptic scenario than a conventional campaign, because you are dealing with a potentially nation-sized area that is actively under full fiendish influence. Likewise, it’s entirely possible that all the Lords of Dust need to do in the scenario is WAIT; most likely Tira had a year to achieve her goal. It’s not about blocking their subtle machinations; those machinations WORKED. It’s now about you finding the path that leads to your foe being rebound.

      • What do you mean by “channel a rakshasa”? Did rebinding Bel Shalor require channeling both a couatl and a rakshasa?

        • Well as Tira didn’t channel a rakshasa I can only assume Keith meant a couatl as he was answering a dozen questions all at once

          Or alternatively Tira the paladin needed to channel both at once! An epic feat for a legendary paladin, though she’s not pictured channeling a rakshasa in the Church of the Silver Flame’s art . . .

  18. How are mortal societies and their motivations and struggles still meaningful in the face of such gross manipulation at the hands of supernatural conspiracies? Khorvaire, in particular, seems to be firmly in the grip of the Lords of Dust; it seems like everything boils down to the Lords of Dust versus Argonnessen in the grand scheme of things, with the Dreaming Dark and the daelkyr as side shows, and even the PCs as mere pawns in these grand-scale schemes.

    • How is life in the real world significant or meaningful in the face of supernovas exploding, our sun slowly burning out and dying or the heat death of the universe?

      How are the actions of characters significant in Greyhawk, Planescape, Forgotten Realms, Starjammer or Dragonlance when the whims of gods, archfiends and prime modrons decide everything in the grand scheme?

      It is a fiction. The story you tell at your table doesn’t need to account for EVERYTHING at all times. Only what matters for the story. Something about old war buddies fighting the Emerald Claw to preserve the fragile peace doesn’t need to involve Katashka the Keeper. Even a game set in the Mror Ironholds about the tensions between clans and the orcs doesn’t need to involve Dyrrn (and he’s pretty involved there) if the story is better served being grounded in person to person conflict

      • How is life in the real world significant or meaningful in the face of supernovas exploding, our sun slowly burning out and dying or the heat death of the universe?

        Well put. As I’ve said, you should choose the active villains when you create your campaign, and you can choose to say that none of the schemes of the Lords of Dust will be significant for another thousand years. YES, they are out there and they are pulling strings, and in a thousand years something might happen. But so what? If your story is about a group of Cyran soldiers seeking vengeance against the Karrnathi necromancer who tormented them in the POW camp, it doesn’t MATTER what the Lords of Dust will do in a thousand years. If you WANT your story to be about the adventurers finding a way to stop the heat death of the universe, you can tell that story. But when I read The Maltese Falcon, I never stop and say “This is all pointless, because eventually the universe will implode.”

      • “How is life in the real world significant or meaningful in the face of supernovas exploding, our sun slowly burning out and dying or the heat death of the universe?

        “How are the actions of characters significant in Greyhawk, Planescape, Forgotten Realms, Starjammer or Dragonlance when the whims of gods, archfiends and prime modrons decide everything in the grand scheme?”

        I prefer Eberron in large part because I want to get away from real-world nihilism, and from those other settings’ great games between cosmic-scale entities. Being confronted with, “Well, actually, the people of Khorvaire really are just pawns in a great game between cosmic-scale entities” puts a damper in that.

        • But that’s the thing, the real world is significant without needing to have something on the level of quasars erupting destroying entire galaxies.

          So, like Keith says, CHOOSE what the story you want to tell is, USE the appropriate villains, and IGNORE the rest if it doesn’t suit your story.

          Eberron is fictional it doesn’t need a grand theory of everything

          • Eberron is fictional it doesn’t need a grand theory of everything

            This is an important point that echoes a few things I’ve said in other articles. Eberron is a foundation to tell stories about the adventures of your player characters. Ultimately, the thousand-year plans of the Dreaming Dark, the Lords of Dust, the Daelkyr, the Chamber — these things only MATTER to the degree that they actually touch the lives and adventures of your player characters. A question like “Could the Chamber have been petrifying demons for ten thousand years” only matters if adventurers are going to interact with it in some way. It could be that Argonnessen hasn’t tried petrification, or it could be that they have vast vaults of petrified demons. The only time it MATTERS is if adventurers actually interact with one of those vaults in an adventure. Because Eberron isn’t Civilization. I’ve said many times that you should only use the villains that you want to matter in your campaign, and the other cans can be kicked down the road. The fact that the Dreaming Dark is plotting conquest doesn’t MATTER unless you MAKE it matter. If your players never go to Sarlona and you decide that the Dreaming Dark has put its conquest plans on hold for a century, then it’s a problem for the heroes of the next century. Even if you decide they’re working to conquer the world NOW, if your adventure is about the fate of a small mining town in Q’barra and there’s no Dreaming Dark agents there, their plans simply aren’t relevant.

            Consider Tira Miron and Bel Shalor. What matters is that mortal Tira was able to find a way to defeat and rebind Bel Shalor and to end the Year of Blood and Fire. It doesn’t matter that she didn’t do anything about the Dreaming Dark, that she didn’t find a way to banish all daelkyr, that she didn’t deal with Sul Khatesh, or even that Bel Shalor still exists and could find a way to escape again in a thousand years. What matters is that she dealt with the challenge that was placed before her and that she saved countless innocent lives in the process.

            Don’t get bogged down in the cosmic picture. An Eberron campaign should be about the world as it impacts the PLAYER CHARACTERS. What happened ten thousand years ago or what will happen in ten thousand years, what is happening in Argonessen or in Riedra; these things only matters if you decide to MAKE them matter.

        • I prefer Eberron in large part because I want to get away from real-world nihilism, and from those other settings’ great games between cosmic-scale entities. Being confronted with, “Well, actually, the people of Khorvaire really are just pawns in a great game between cosmic-scale entities” puts a damper in that.

          Except it really doesn’t have to. Consider this: Bel Shalor’s near-release occurred SIX HUNDRED YEARS AGO and is the most recent near-release we’ve dealt with. Not only did it not occur, it created the Church of the Silver Flame. Consider my point that the Lords of Dust don’t control the LEADERS of nations or organizations, they control advisors and clerks. Consider the point that a Lord of Dust might use that clerk THREE TIMES IN THIRTY YEARS, and what they will do is to swap one document.

          Again, think about that for a moment: It’s been SIX HUNDRED YEARS since Bel Shalor significantly affected things. Part of the point of that cosmic scale is that it’s SO cosmic that many generations of human lives pass between each move, and the Lords of Dust DON’T CARE about any of them. The Dreaming Dark is a bigger factor because it actively seeks CONQUEST, while the Lords of Dust seek to fulfill PROPHECY—and if there’s nothing that’s prophetically significant, they won’t DO anything with their network of pawns.

          As I have said MANY times, if you don’t like the Lords of Dust, don’t use them. Even if you want to stay absolutely true to canon and don’t want to remove them from the setting, all you have to do is say that none of them have plans that will be relevant within the next century and there you go; they may exist, but you will never interact with one in a meaningful way. On the other hand, some DMs and players DO like interacting with cosmic level entities, and THEY can decide that an overlord being released is part of their campaign. Ultimately, the point of Eberron is to provide options for the stories people want to tell. If you don’t like the Lords of Dust, don’t use them. Per canon, they don’t control the daily lives of everyone in Khorvaire; they are simply ensconced in places where they can shift events to fit their prophetic paths.

    • From the canon most rakshasa and dragons aren’t looking to rule the world or manipulate on a mass scale. Gross manipulation a bit far when it seems more like subtle pushes and empowering their own pawns along the way.

      The players can oppose the schemes and are the agents the schemers can use to fulfill preferred conditions of the prophecy. Might be the players can turn the strings the rakshasa and the dragons are pulling back on them. Don’t despair, heroes can change the world!

    • Others have answered this as well as I can. The point is that the GAME WE ARE PLAYING isn’t ABOUT the grand, millennia-spanning cold war between the Lords of Dust and the Dragons of Argonnessen. It’s about what’s happened RIGHT NOW, in 998 YK, to people in Khorvaire. And right now, in 998 YK Khorvaire it’s possible that no schemes of the Lords of Dust will come to fruition.

      Consider, say The Bourne Identity or Mission Impossible. It is POSSIBLE, that in either of those franchises, there is a conspiracy of reptoid aliens that have been controlling the government since they had their minions build the pyramids, and that they are being opposed by beings of light from another dimension. But NONE OF THAT MATTERS because what WE care about is what happens to Jason Bourne or to the IMF team. And if someone tells Bourne about the reptoid aliens he’d dismiss it as a conspiracy and rightly so, because not only are they not doing anything obvious, they may NEVER do anything obvious IN HIS ENTIRE LIFETIME.

      The primary purpose of the cold war between the dragons and the demons—and I feel like we’ve had this conversation before—is because epic level characters COULD become significant players in it. The was actually part of the original five-book arc of the Thorn of Breland novels, which wasn’t seen because the series stopped with book three. In the first two books Thorn is dealing with threats that are “human-level”. Over the course of the series, she REALIZES she’s been a pawn in the war between Argonnessen and the Lords of Dust, and had the series continued, she would have charted her own course.

      Once again, this is why I say CHOOSE YOUR VILLAINS. If you don’t like the Lords of Dust, DON’T USE THEM. The fact that they are out there doesn’t have any more impact on a typical adventure than the reptoid alien conspiracy has in The Bourne Identity.

  19. Are there, canonically, any nihilist villains in Khorvaire? That is to say, NPcs whose atitude is: “I knowingly serve the Lords of Dust because they can give me undreamed of wealth and power. Sure they want to destroy the world, but by that time I’ll be dead and annihilated in Dolurrh anyway. The LoD are the highest bidders for my services and the future can take care of itself.”
    Such a foe could probide PCs with a thoroughly evil and despicable arch-enemy who’s still a mortal foe whom they could aspire to truly defeat.

    • Canonically? Not that comes to mind. Honestly, I don’t think there are a lot of canonical mortal characters who are knowingly working for the Lords of Dust, which is to say we know they’re OUT there, we just haven’t described them in detail.

      Unofficially? Certainly. I had a PC warlock in my game working for one of the overlords whose basic philosophy was “Sooner or later one of the overlords will get out. MY overlord will just enslave everyone, and that beats the ones that will utterly destroy life as we know it. It’s not that I love the idea of what he’ll do to the world, but endless slavery beats chaos and war.

    • Does it even have to be nihilism? You could easily have a scenario where the LoDs actually push for an outcome that would actually improve the lives of many people in the present while bringing ruin in the far future and have that opposed by e.g. the Chamber. The time scale can be such that there isn’t really a good argument about preserving the future for our children cause for a human, an event that happens two millenia from now is pointless; their entire culture might not even exist at that point, let alone their descendants.

  20. Hi Keith and thanks!
    You say that Lords of Dust could easily kill player characters, but they don’t because of their role in the protect. It makes sense and it justify the fact that pc are not killed by an overwhelming power.
    So, with that in mind, why do pcs fight demons at all? They risk to be killed by demons with equal CR. That is great for the game, but a little irrealistic.
    Same if an overlord is settled free: if pcs are the key for binding him again, I guess dragons would protect them and resurrect then everyone, whilst Lords of Dust would try to kill’em immediately.
    (Btw it could be fun a campaign where pcs are continuously killed and resurrected, always trying new ways to bind an overlord with a strict time limit before failure)

    2) long time ago we discussed the idea that a Rakshasa turns good, like a Radiant Idol turning evil, and that this would chance the very nature of the Rakshasa, possibly aspect and abilities too. How does this happen in your opinion? Do you think a specific event to happen, or there is a little spark of free will in immortals or, finally, it is part of the nature of Everton that sometimes immortal change their nature, representing that even the darkest heart could change? (Or for Radiant Idols, even the noblest spirits can be corrupted?)

    • So, with that in mind, why do pcs fight demons at all?

      I’m not sure I understand the question. PCs generally fight demons because they encounter the demons pursuing a villainous scheme. If they encounter a rakshasa leading a cult that is going to sacrifice everyone in a village, clearly as adventurers they should try to stop it, fighting the demon. The question is why, once they DO this and prove themselves a thorn in the sides of the Lords of Dust, the Lords don’t immediately use their vast resources to vengefully destroy the PCs; the explanation is that if they don’t, it’s because they believe that they may have a use for the PCs that outweighs the frustration that PCs are causing. But also, this shouldn’t be something where a player thinks “I AM INVINCIBLE! THEY CAN’T RISK KILLING ME!” Unless you have spelled out to the player WHAT plans the Lords of Dust have for them, it could very well be that their role in the Prophecy is to be KILLED THE NEXT TIME THEY FIGHT A RAKSHASA. This isn’t supposed to be some sort of perfect defense for the PCs, it’s a broad, simple explanation for why low level characters aren’t killed in retaliation by powerful forces.

      long time ago we discussed the idea that a Rakshasa turns good… How does this happen in your opinion?
      There’s no single answer. The rakshasa could just be a remarkable and unique individual. It could be inspired by the actions of mortals it encounters (or even kills). It could be infected with the essence of a celestial it destroys. I wouldn’t make it a concrete event that could be reliably repeated, I would make it a unique story for each fiend that turns to the light. But certainly it is POSSIBLE for even the darkest heart to change — or for the brightest celestial to fall.

  21. How would a rakshasa be affected by detect thoughts in your game? Would it be fabricated thoughts the rakshasa can control? Would spell like abilities like the Channel Divinity: Read Thoughts that knowledge domain clerics be subject to the effect as if casting detect thoughts?

    • This is another question where the answer is based on backtracking from the desired result. The idea is that rakshasa have been able to successfully hide for tens of thousands of years, therefore I would want an answer that doesn’t make detect thoughts an absolute tool for spotting them (“I can’t sense anything from you! You’re a fiend!”). I wouldn’t give a rakshasa absolute fine control over this—I wouldn’t let them choose specific fabricated thoughts, unless we’re talking about a servant of Eldrantulku or someone like that who is SUPPOSED to be especially good at deception. What I’d personally say is that they have two states. They can raise the shield fully — which means they can’t be detected by the spell in any way — or they can lower it slightly, which means that they show up as a thinking creature but that you just can’t really pick up anything specific. “They don’t really seem to have much on their mind.”

      Channel Divinity is a good question. On the one hand, it’s virtually identical to Detect Thoughts. On the other hand CLERICS ARE EXTREMELY RARE and Knowledge clerics even more so. The vast majority of Knowledge clerics are going to be player characters, and I’m entirely happy to have player characters be able to do things NPCs can’t. So with that in mind, I’d be inclined to say that the PC Knowledge Cleric CAN use this ability on a rakshasa and read their thoughts; their divine power is more remarkable than the base spell. With that said, the secondary effect specifically says you can “cast the suggestion spell” so THAT element would be blocked as usual by the rakshasa’s resistance.

  22. Hello Mr. Baker,
    I found this article to be extremely helpful in flushing out the motivations for Rakshasa agents in my current Eberron campaign. Right now, I have one of them trying to initiate Civil War within Karrnath.
    Thank you!

    Additionally, I had a question:
    When the blood of Siberys spawned dragonoid life in the world, where did Kobolds and Pseudodragons fit into that proverbial pecking order?

      • Thank you for directing me accordingly! I would not, likely, have been able to find that by myself. I am now even more eager to get to read Frontiers of Eberron.

        However, I am still curious about the nature of Pseudodragons in Eberron. Do they reside at Argonnessen with the Chamber, or can they be found throughout the world? …The reason I’m asking is because one of my players really wants to have a companion/pet Pseudodragon.

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