Dragonmarks: Lightning Round 2/17/18

I’m going to fall off the grid for a week, and I don’t have time for a well thought out post before I go… so I decided to do a quick lightning round of short-answer Eberron questions before I go! As always, these are just my personal opinions and might contradict canon material. Let’s go!

Are there any Eberron NPCs that are a Keith Baker avatar, or any that you put more of yourself into?

When we created Eberron, we made a conscious choice not to include NPCs like Drizzt or Elminster. Essentially, I want Eberron to be focused on the stories of YOUR characters… not mine. So I didn’t go into it with the idea of creating a personal avatar. With that said, I had to stop and think if there’s an NPC I’m particularly invested in… but really, I like ALL of them. I’m fond of the Daughters of Sora Kell, but I feel equally attached to Oalian, to Aaren d’Cannith, to Sheshka and Steel. I put a piece of myself into anything I make.

What would it take for Droaam to become a legally recognized entity in Khorvaire?

My novel The Queen of Stone posits a summit in Droaam where representatives of the Thronehold nations convene to discuss exactly this, and that’s what it would take: a majority of the Thronehold nations supporting the idea. You can read the novel to see one way that might turn out…

I can’t seem to find any direct interaction between Darguun and Droaam in the source books. How do they view each other?

I don’t see any particular bond between the two nations. It’s not like they’re somehow united because “We’re all monsters.” Medusas, trolls, harpies, werewolves — all of these things are just as frightening to a goblin as to a human. There ARE goblins in Droaam, but they have no common culture with Darguun… in part because the goblins of Droaam have been oppressed by ogres and trolls and other scary monsters for centuries. Add this to the fact that Droaam has only been around for eleven years. One of the main obstacles to Droaam being recognized is getting anyone to believe that it will actually exist ten years from now. Most of the other nations assume it’s going to collapse any day now… and Darguun is no exception to this.

WITH THAT SAID, as with all things in Eberron, the real question is what do you WANT the answer to be? What works for your story? Darguun is a Thronehold nation, but it is on shaky ground itself. Might Haruuc see an alliance with Droaam as strengthening his position? Or conversely, might he feel that Droaam has nothing to offer his people… and that a perceived relationship will actually tarnish his standing with the other Thronehold nations? Might he actually condemn or dismiss Droaam in an effort to avoid being painted as “another monster nation?” And if that were the case, I could easily see Sora Katra making an arrangement with one of Haruuc’s rivals… perhaps instigating a coup in Darguun to bring Katra’s puppet to power.

Meanwhile, what about the Dhakaani? They’d surely see the goblins of Droaam as a tremendous disappointment, fallen even further than the Ghaal’dar. But I still imagine that the Khesh’dar have agents hidden among the goblins of Greywall… waiting to see how the wind will blow.

So: as it stands, Darguun is a Thronehold nation and Droaam is not. There’s no common culture between their goblin populations and thus no concrete connection. Where do you want it to go next?

Can you talk about the shadow in the flame — Bel Shalor — before he/she was imprisoned during the Age of Demons?

Bel Shalor is covered in detail in the 4E Eberron Campaign Guide. He has some overlap with Eldrantulku; both turn allies against one another. But in contrast to the Oathbreaker, the Shadow in the Flame is more about corruption… of the good person convinced to do evil, whether they believe it serves a greater good or whether they are convinced to abandon their ideals. One school of thought suggests that Bel Shalor is the inspiration for the legend of the Shadow; if true, this would mean that Bel Shalor might have taught the dragon Ourelonastrix the ways of magic or even revealed the Prophecy to the first loredrake. If THAT is true, then Bel Shalor might have set in motion the events that resulted in the creation of the Silver Flame and the defeat of the Overlords. But there are also those who believe Bel Shalor’s “defeat” at the hands of Tira Miron may have been planned all along; that being intimately connected to the Silver Flame and able to whisper to all who hear it may have been what Bel Shalor wanted all along.

This ties to the idea that the Overlords aren’t HUMAN. They don’t want the things we want. They embody their ideas and derive joy from DOING what they embody. The Rage of War doesn’t drive conflict because he wants territory; what he wants is war, because that is what he IS. As such, Bel Shalor may be exactly where he wants to be — safely hidden where all assume he is harmless, yet in a position to manipulate and corrupt some of the most noble people in Eberron. Again, it’s entirely possible that Tira’s victory was a trick… and that the true victory will be when a new generation of heroes finds a way to separate Bel Shalor from the Silver Flame and somehow restore his original prison. Perhaps that’s a job for your PCs…

Do you have any ideas, in brief, for what immediate events are likely if the timeline were to advance for a few years?

That’s not a good question for a lightning round. There’s LOTS of things that could happen, and they intersect in many ways. To name just a few: King Boranel dies… does a successor take the throne, or does Breland end the monarchy? This intersects with Droaam: is Droaam recognized as a Thronehold nation, or does it go to war with Breland? When Lhesh Haruuc dies, does Darguun fall into chaos? Does a new leader rise from the Ghaal’dar? Or do the Dhakaani take over, and if so, who becomes their Emperor or Empress? The Valenar want a war… does someone take them up on it? Do the Inspired establish a stronger foothold in Q’barra? What happens with the Mourning… does someone find a way to harness its power, or failing that, to prove it’s no longer a threat? That’s just two minutes of thinking. If I had more time I could raise many more possibilities (we haven’t even touched on the Dragonmarked houses), how they intersect, and what seems most likely to me, but I don’t have that time.

Would Tritons (the 5e race) fit anywhere in Eberron? Would you use them instead of your previous ideas for merfolk, or as something else?

Certainly there’s a place for tritons in Eberron. But I’d want to think carefully about what that place should be. In 5E, tritons are fully amphibious and can live on land indefinitely, which isn’t an option for merfolk or sahuagin; if tritons were as widespread or as ancient as those other two races, I’d expect much more interaction between the surface and the water. Given that, I’d either say that tritons are a recent development or that they limited to a particular area. If they’re few in number they could have been created by Mordain the Fleshweaver or even magebred by House Vadalis – a dramatic breakthrough! If they’re tied to a particular area, it could be that they only breed true in manifest zones tied to Risia or Lamannia. Short form: there’s definitely a place for them, but I’d want to think about it carefully, and wouldn’t just use them in place of merfolk.

I feel like there’s not as much about Halflings as there’s been about elves and gnomes, dwarves, orcs and goblins. 

This is true, and I think it’s a good topic for a full post in the future.

What would be a good way for the Emerald Claw (and Lady Vol) to influence Karrnathi politics in the post war?

One option, off the top of my head: To accuse Kaius of embracing peace when Karrnath could have won the war, and of making too many concessions to the other nations to preserve that peace. Beyond that, back some other warlord as the true worthy ruler of the nation — the person who will sweep aside the nation’s decline under the Wynarns and restore Karrnath to greatness. A question is whether they publicly support the Blood of Vol as a tool that can help towards this goal… or if they play down that connection.

How would a Blood of Vol cleric justify an interaction with actually seeing and interacting with spirits of people they know?

They don’t have to “justify” it. The existence of ghosts or preserved spirits doesn’t violate the ideas of the Blood of Vol. The faith is grounded on the concrete fact that after death, souls are naturally drawn to Dolurrh, where they dissipate. Speak with Dead deals with the residual memories of the deceased and doesn’t change the fact that their spirits are lost. Meanwhile, lingering ghosts are no different from vampires or mummies; it’s great that they’ve managed to avoid dissolution in Dolurrh, but they’ve still lost their blood and divine spark. If the spirit has maintained full consciousness, that’s great! If it’s become some sort of predatory wraith, then the Blood of Vol cleric would be first in line to destroy it to protect the living.

Would a Death Domain Cleric fit in with the Aerenal philosophy?

Not easily, no. The Undying Court is fueled by POSITIVE energy and disapproves of channelling negative energy, which appears to be the focus of the Death Domain cleric. The Deathguard are willing to overlook spellcasters occasionally dabbling in negative necromancy, but a cleric who’s entirely about that doesn’t seem to fit in. It’s a far more logical match for the Bloodsail elves, who are the spiritual descendants of the original line of Vol… or someone who’s following the teachings of the ancient Qabalrin.

Do you think 5e’s magic item system fits Eberron as is or it would need changes? And the way they are bought and sold?

That’s a bigger topic than I can cover here. The short form is that Xanathar’s Guide to Everything goes a long way towards resolving these issues, introducing *A* system for creating magic items and introducing common magic items. It’s a question of defining what magic items fall under Eberron’s “wide magic” umbrella and what should be rare.

In several cases you pointed out that true dragonmarks are constructive rather then destructive. In dragonmarked, however, the jorasco prestige class uses the mark of healing for destructive, killing purposes. Do you feel it as a contradiction? Do you like the idea of that prestige class?

I didn’t create the nosomantic chirugeon, but I have no problem with it. I DID create the black dog, the Ghallanda prestige class that specializes in using the Mark of Hospitality to poison people. The whole point of the prestige classes is that they are people who are learning to use their mark in WAYS THEY AREN’T MEANT TO WORK… and most members of their own houses distrust or despise members of those classes. And again, in Eberron player character classes represent a rare and remarkable level of skill… which means that people with prestige classes are EXCEPTIONALLY rare and remarkable. So again, these classes don’t represent the natural evolution of the mark; they represent people taking a tool designed to do something positive and finding a way to use it as a weapon.

Do your gnomes draw more from 3.5 or 4e? Speaking to their physical appearance and the more explicit fey connection. 

Somewhere in between? I’m fine with the idea that there are gnomes in Thelanis and in some of the Feyspires, but that doesn’t somehow change my view of the evolution of the gnomes of Zilargo (who are noted as existing in a less civilized state during the Dhakaani Empire). So I’m fine with the idea that tens of thousands of years ago a group of gnomes were dropped out of Thelanis for some reason and ended up becoming the gnomes of Eberron. So any connection they might have to Thelanis is so far in the distant past that it has no significant impact on them in the present day… and it’s more an interesting curiosity than relevant to the modern gnome.

As for physical appearance, personally I like the 4E take on gnomes. This image above — Fred Hooper’s work from the Eberron Campaign Guide — is one of my favorite Zil images, doubly so because the woman in red is clearly casting a spell behind HER back.

Do the Quori and/or Dreaming Dark have any fears of the lords of madness or denizens of Xoriat? 

Why wouldn’t they? Immortals don’t necessarily fear death the way mortals do, but anything that can alter their fundamental consciousness or personality is legitimately terrifying. Beyond this, the Quori don’t understand the Daelkyr any more than humanity does… and as Lovecraft says, the greatest fear is fear of the unknown.

How does the Dreaming Dark react to other powerful influences on the world such as the Daelkyr/Cult of Dragon Below or Lords of Dust?

None of the major threats are buddies, which is one of the things that gives players a chance. The Dreaming Dark may not want to directly engage the Daelkyr or the Lords of Dust, but having an Overlord unleashed would certainly wreck al their carefully laid plans. So this is where you could have agents of a villainous force assisting PCs who are fighting against a different villainous force. At the same time, bear in mind that it’s not like they all have perfect awareness of one another. The Dreaming Dark doesn’t have a list of secret agents of the Lords of Dust or vice versa, and generally they WANT to avoid triggering conflict with other great powers when they can.

Would the Swords of Liberty have active campaigns against Cyran refugees in Breland and/or Prince Oargev?

Not defined in canon. It’s definitely a possible storyline for them, but it’s up to you what sort of spin you want to put on them. One possible approach for the Swords of Liberty is that they put democracy first – that they are first and foremost opposed to the feudal system and are interested in toppling monarchies across Khorvaire. In this case they might welcome Cyran refugees to their cause, saying that they are comrades in arms in the struggle to build NEW nations — though they’d definitely be opposed to Oargev, as the last remnant of a corrupt system. On the other hand, you could also choose to make them Brelish supremacists, interested only in perfecting their own nation — in which case they would definitely see Cyran refugees as a threat. Personally I’d do both; say that there’s different cells of the SoL that approach their goals in different ways. Thus you might have players who find they are sympathetic to some of the Swords, while opposing others.

That’s all I have time for! Feel free to post additional questions and thoughts below, but I’ll be off the internet for a week. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who keep this blog going.

15 thoughts on “Dragonmarks: Lightning Round 2/17/18

  1. Good article. There’s so much depth to Eberron, and I’m quite grateful you’re willing to plumb it with us. I’d love to see halflings get the treatment they deserve. (Though I’m biased: playing a Ghallanda heir for a decade will do that.)

    One minor quibble: there already was a system for creating magic items in 5e, right there in the DMG. It just wasn’t presented very clearly: DMG 128-129, 135, 135-136, 141, 144; Player’s Handbook 154, and Monster Manual 11, to get the complete picture of building, buying, and selling items in 5e. No wonder Xanathar’s got noticed first!

    The system in Xanathar’s is rather different, and has three unique quirks *relative to the DMG’s system* and pertinent to Eberron:
    -it only aligns with the Player’s Handbook / DMG numbers in worlds with ten-day weeks (i.e. it takes 300 days to make a suit of plate using it in Faerun (just like in the PHB) but only 210 in Eberron – not due to Magecraft or anything, just a quick of the calendar)
    -the costs encourage more crafting of rarer items than more “wide magic” workhorses (a Common item took 4 days to make in the DMG, takes 10 with Xanathar. A Very Rare took 2000 days to finish using thr DMG, and just 250 in Xanathar. That’s *without assistants* – something Xanathar cut down on, as well, since assistants now need specialized training to contribute.)
    -if you follow Xanathar to the letter, a magic item economy naturally arises, despite what 5e core says. (It becomes possible for persuasive characters to turn profits simply buying and selling, and for certain rarities, by crafting and selling. It’s just rarely the same items you’d use in Eberron, and the sellers take on a very specific form.)

    Whether either of these systems aligns with Eberron is still an open question. Personally, I think the DMG’s is a better base fit – just introduce variant/proprietary formulas for the commodetised /wide-magic items that require a marked heir or Creation Forge or something to mimic a magewright (item depending) to complete, but only cost half as much in raw materials, then let guilds do the rest via volume discounts, licensing fees, and monopolies.

  2. Oh how I would love more halfling information.

    How well-connected is Katra to the other imposing forces in the world? The ECS calls out that the daughters mostly ignore Mordain, but has Katra ever had to traffic with Oalian, or went to see Erandis for tea and doom gossip?

  3. With regards to gnome appearance, I’ll always remember that Eberron gnomes are rodents (http://archive.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/ebds/20041129a), which is what I try to emphasize in my NPC art; I feel like both 3.5 or 4E gnomes could fit that model (although I do really want art of gnomes with delicate little chewing sticks to keep their teeth a normal length).

    Also, I just … want to call attention to the fact that Eberron gnomes are rodents, because it’s one of the primary examples of my thesis that D&D is better when it allows itself to get *weird*.

  4. If you were asked to write a short introductory adventure for Eberron as an official release (similar to Forgotten Forge for 3.5 EcS) any ideas on what it might be about?

  5. And we are all still dreaming of an offical “Keith Baker’s Eberron”… awesome as always, Keith.

    For a future topic, I’d like to see your take on Dragonmarked Houses (including their ancient heraldry, as my curiosity has been picked since I read your first Eberron novel).

    • If I remember correctly, the “default” reason why elves are immune to ghoul paralysis is because the first ghouls were created by elves as a weapon against orcs. This fits well with the necromantic bent all elves in Eberron have (obviously their enemies would’ve been something other than orcs — giants, perhaps?). You could reasonably trace the origin of ghouls to the Qalbarin, perhaps as failed experiments in their search for immortality.

      As for ghasts, they could either be simply created accidentally through the process that makes ghouls, and for whatever arcane reason their paralysis is able to affect elves the same way that a mutated strain of avian flu could affect humans in real life. Or perhaps made by elves against elven enemies.

  6. I’m putting together a game, and I’ve been considering extraplanar languages.

    By default, there’s an Abyssal language, spoken by demons, and Infernal, spoken by devils; but since (as I understand it) the lines between the fiend types can be a bit more blurred in Eberron, I feel like it might be worth considering a slightly different mix.

    Specifically, there are both demons and devils on some of the outer planes, and I get the impression the different Overlords also have minions of both kinds. I was considering either slamming them together into a single Fiendish language, or splitting into native-fiend Overlordish and extraplanar-fiendish. Any thoughts?

    (One of my players is looking at picking up the bright-and-terrible-rites Celestial warlock concept as a scholar from Flamekeep, and wants to be able to read eldritch tomes of all stripes, so this is relevant in the character-design phase.)

    • Oh, and before anyone suggests the “you can read any language” Invocation – both I and the player feel there are more thematically appropriate ones available, and taking the Linguist feat (so it’s the character’s mundane scholarship doing the reading part) feels much more on-theme.

  7. Well, given the glacial pace of population turnover in the planes, you’d be justified in about whatever you want. If you want to make it easy to pick up tomes, you could state that outsiders speak languages based on their most influential progenitor (so there would be a Khyberan, Siberyan, and Eberronish tongue). That would be the three languages from linguist right there, but would cover all extra planar studies. You can also say that it was pleasing to the progenitors to make as many languages as amused them.

  8. On the subject of questions, what’s the relationship between the dragon believers in Thir and Tiamat? Inversely, are the Talons of Tiamat effectively Thir believers who happen to have aligned themselves with Tiamat?

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