Dragonmarks 8/21/14 – Drow, Dwarves and More!

As some of you may recall, my original plan was to write about Aundair. However, I’ve been a little busy recently, between conventions, Gloom, and starting my own company.  I do still plan to tackle Aundair and the Eldeen in the near future, and to talk about options for 5th Edition, as much as I can. But for now, here’s a few questions that came my way about the races of Eberron. As always, these are just my personal opinions and may contradict or clash with canon sources.

Eberron is hardly lacking in diverse character options, but none of your various Drow societies allow easy opportunities for use as player characters. Was this deliberate? Could you reasonably think of a playable Drow? As it stands, the Vulkoor-worshipers, Sulatar, and Umbragen are all xenophobic “jungle savages” for adventuring parties to slay or narrowly escape.

First off: was it deliberate that they didn’t allow EASY opportunities for player characters? Absolutely. The Drow are supposed to be alien and mysterious; I wouldn’t want them to be casually integrated into the Five Nations, because if that’s the case what makes it interesting to play one? With that said, “no easy options” doesn’t mean “no options”, so let’s look at a few.

The Foundling. In my novel The Shattered Land, we run into a gray-skinned man named Gerrion. He’s a Sulatar halfblood who now lives in Stormreach as a gambler and guide. While Gerrion is specifically half-drow, his story works just as well for a full drow; he’s drow by blood but was raised among humans. Just as the city elves of Eberron are dramatically different from the Aereni or the Tairnadal, you can always just have a city drow, who is genetically drow but not influenced by their cultures.

The Fish Out Of Water. If you consider the protagonists of the Dreaming Dark trilogy to be an adventuring party, The Gates of Night introduces a drow player character in Xu’sasar. She is a Qaltiar drow (an offshoot of the Vulkoori, but with a broader animistic tradition as opposed to being entirely hung up on scorpions) who ends up stuck with the rest of the party and as lone survivor of her clan. There’s no easy way for her to physically return to her home, and with her clan dead, not much for her to return to. So she binds herself to the party and fights alongside them, doing her best to adapt to their strange world and bizarre traditions. If you want to get a better sense of how I see this working out, well, check out the book!

The Emissary. The Umbragen aren’t “jungle savages”; if you go to the primary source, they are a subterranean culture easily as advanced as the Aereni. Most critically, they are currently locked in battle with the Daelkyr lord Belashyrra… and they are losing that war. By and large, the Umbragen aren’t xenophobic; they simply don’t CARE about the surface world. The primary reason for an Umbragen to come to the surface is to find weapons, magic, or allies to help inn their war against the Daelkyr… which is a perfectly valid path for an adventurer. If that doesn’t work for you, you could easily have an Umbragen exile who has been banished from the depths for any number of reasons, and traveled to Khorvaire because hey, they aren’t some sort of jungle savage, and if they must live on the surface they’d rather do it somewhere civilized.

 
Eberron has always reveled in non-standard takes on traditional D&D races, yet the presentation of dwarves in the setting cleaves very closely to traditional view of our favorite bearded alcoholics. Was this intentional? In a setting where the elves are Mayan necromancers and the hobbits ride dinosaurs, it seems curious to have dwarves still happily mining their mountains and hating orcs.

First off, the goal of Eberron wasn’t to change races just for the sake of changing races; it was an exploration of facets of those races. Both the Aereni and the Tairnadal are essentially a response to the long lifespan of the elves, with the idea that a race of people with a potential thousand year lifespan will have trouble letting go; thus they find ways to cling to life, preserving their heroes through magic or emulation. The intrigue-laden society of the gnomes is tied to their natural knack for illusions, ability to talk to burrowing spies, and knack for alchemy (which is to say poison). In the case of the dwarves, what I wanted to explore is something that I feel doesn’t come out often… The dwarves have all the gold (along with the best steel). If you look at the picture of the male dwarf in the 3.5 ECS, he’s not a long-bearded warrior in chainmail with an axe in one hand and a stein in the other; he’s a merchant prince. The dwarves of Eberron are the Medici banks and Saudi princes. Yes, they can fall back on their natural toughness and their love of the axe, but their power is their gold. Let’s look at Antus ir’Soldorak, chancellor of the Aurum:

Antus’s holdings include gold and platinum mines. Following the secession of the Mror Holds, he founded the Soldorak Mint, and his currency is now commonplace throughout Karrnath and the Lhazaar Principalities. He has invested his wealth across the Five Nations, and could have an interest in any sort of industry that serves the needs of an adventure. He is determined to break the power of the Twelve and stamp out the last vestiges of Galifar, and to this end he searches for new industrial and magical developments—seeking to fund such endeavors and exploit their results before the knowledge can be acquired or destroyed by the Twelve. He has an enormous gilded airship, Chains of Gold, which includes its own speaking stone station and altar of resurrection. Soldorak spends most of his time aboard his ship, flying from city to city to oversee local operations. He purchased his noble title, and technically he is a Karrnathi warlord, but he rarely visits his estates.

Just to point out, Antus isn’t a weird unique case; while it has spread across Khorvaire, the Aurum was founded in the Mror by wealthy dwarf-lords who wished to increase their influence.

So you can HAVE the drunken dwarf warrior who wants nothing more than to go beat down those mountain orcs, but he’s likely working for one of the mighty clan lords whose power comes from gold more than from iron.

There’s no question: on the surface, the dwarves are the least distinct of Eberron’s races. But there is still a unique aspect to them that can be very interesting to explore, if you dig into it.

Did any of the dwarves who kicked out the surface tribes, survive down in Khyber below the Mror holds?

Not according to canon sources, but you could always change that in your campaign. Perhaps there’s a lone fortress still holding out against the aberrations. Perhaps explorers find an amazingly advanced peaceful dwarven civilization… but is all as it seems, or are they secretly controlled by the daelkyr? Or perhaps the only survivors are the derro, the twisted remnants of the ancient dwarves. Personally, I lean towards the latter option… all that’s left below is horror and ruin, and ancient secrets waiting to be found. But it’s certainly something you could take in a different direction.

Were there any races you wanted to have in Eberron that didn’t make the cut? If so, what were they?

Well, there were the merfolk and sahuagin in the oceans, but I wasn’t pushing for those to be playable races. The only playable race that was cut from the original write-up was goblins, who have always continued to linger on the fringes of playability.

If a new PC race were to emerge, where’s your best pick as to where?

That’s too broad a question to answer without more information. Eberron is full of options for introducing new creatures or races. In some cases, the best answer would be overlaying it on an existing element… for example, replacing the half-ogre Eneko of Sarlona with Goliaths, if you want a Goliaths in your game. Wilden could be created when Oalian explodes one day. With that said, there’s lots of entities that could produce a new race. Mordain the Fleshweaver. The Daelkyr.  House Vadalis. Someone messing with the tools the giants used to create the elves and drow. A new race could have existed for ages in Khyber or Xen’drik and simply never been encountered until recently. Or it could be the result of the Mourning – a Cyran village or town spared from death, but instead transformed into an entirely different species. Each option is simply going to bring different story hooks for a player of that race.

One thing that has nettled me for years; why does the Mark of Finding manifest across racial lines? Humans never end up with the Marks of Storm or Detection, yet Tharashk counts both humans and half-orcs among their number.

An excellent question – after all, full-blooded orcs can’t get the mark either. There is no known answer, and it’s one of the many mysteries of the Dragonmarks; why are ANY of them bound to the races that they are. However, it is something that the people of the Shadow Marches point to as proof that the half-orcs are a bridge between the two races… the Mark of Finding is something humans possess and orcs don’t, but it is shared by the jhorgun’taal (the Marcher term for half-orcs, “children of two bloods”).

How do the Gnolls of the Znir Pact feel about Gnolls throughout the rest of Khorvaire?

For the most part, that they are feral barbaric savages. But it’s not like there’s a lot of gnolls IN Khorvaire outside of Droaam, and most are in desolate places like the Demon Wastes or the depths of the King’s Forest, so it’s a rare thing for a Znir gnoll to actually encounter a non-Znir gnoll.

How are warforged handling their new OS? (That is to say, 5th edition)

It’s too soon to say. There was an early version of warforged presented in the alpha playtest materials, but I think it could be improved upon, and as it wasn’t included in the PHB there’s still an opportunity for that to happen.

How may warforged did a creation forge make at one time? Did they come off in batches?

In my opinion, this varied by forge, but most forges would be designed to produce multiple warforged of the same design at one time.

If the eladrin had a chance to get a portal or spell or something that could take them back to Thelanis would they take it? Would they leave the feyspires behind?

Some might. But if you read my novel The Fading Dream, my premise is that many of the more powerful fey are tied to their spires… that they are in some ways manifestations or extensions of the spire. They could wander from it for a time, but they couldn’t choose to abandon it forever without losing their identity.

 

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