Eberron Flashback: The Lords of Dust

I’ve got a lot of articles I’d like to write when time permits, but at the moment it’s not permitting. So today I wanted to revisit a previous topic: the Lords of Dust and their masters, the Overlords of the First Age. I’m incorporating a few new questions from the mailbag, and post your questions in the comments below. I also want to give another shout-out to Maze Arcana, an Eberron livestream campaign put together by Ruty Rutenberg and Satine Phoenix, the mastermind behind the ChariD20 events I’ve done for the past few years. Check it out! And now, on to the Overlords. As always, these answers are just my opinions and may contradict canon sources… though to the best of my knowledge, I’ve written most of the canon sources on the Lords of Dust!

There are a number of decent sources of information on the Lords of Dust. I recommend the Eberron Campaign Guide (4E) and Dragon 337. With that said, let me try to clarify some of the common points of confusion right away.

The Lords of Dust is an alliance of fiends—mostly rakshasa, as they are the most common native fiends of Eberron—who serve the interests of the fiendish Overlords of the Age of Demons. There were originally approximately thirty of these Overlords. Their power was equivalent of that of gods in most other settings. Most exerted influence over a region akin to a large modern nation, but some had more subtle influence reaching across the entire world. Overlords are part of the very fabric of reality, and they cannot be destroyed any more that you can destroy death or treachery. They can only be bound, and that only with the guidance of the Prophecy. The only known force capable of binding them is the Silver Flame, which was created by the sacrifice of the Couatl host, a sacrifice that created an immortal force of light to contain the immortal force of darkness.

The Overlords of the Age of Demons are the most powerful entities that exist in the setting. An individual Overlord is equivalent in power to il-Lashtavar (the force behind the Dreaming Dark) or the entire Undying Court. A question worth asking is, if they are so incredibly powerful and had hordes of demons on top of it, how did the war of the Age of Demons last so long? It lasted for centuries… why didn’t the Overlords just win?

There’s a few answers. The first is that it wasn’t a “war” in the sense we think of it. Some of the Overlords—like Rak Tulkhesh and Katashka—fielded armies that could be fought in a traditional battle. Some sought to directly control and enslave dragons, titans, and other creatures. But with many of them, the “war” was simply existence. They are immortal. Their fiendish servants are immortal. They don’t NEED to conquer you. They just do what they do. A battle against Tul Oreshka is a battle against madness; having more soldiers doesn’t help you win a fight. The Voice in the Darkness “wins” when you succumb to madness; she doesn’t need to occupy your city if she occupies your mind.

Got that? Now add to this the fact that for the most part, the Overlords were neither friends nor allies. They are not human in any sense of the word: they are primal entities who shape reality by virtue of existing. Far from being friends, many of them actually fought one another; when you’re an incarnation of strife or discord, that’s kind of what you do. One of the main reasons they were finally defeated is because their opponents were able to target them individually or use their existing rivalries against them. And bear in mind that absolute immortality and nigh-omnipotence breeds a lot of overconfidence.

After they were bound, their surviving servants eventually recovered and began laying plans to free their masters. Eventually this brought them in conflict with one another. The Lords of Dust aren’t a monolithic force; they are more like the United Nations, with each member of the Council of Ashtakala representing the interests of a different Overlord. They don’t all share resources, and three different Lords of Dust may all have personal agents in the same court. The purpose of the Council is at best to exchange favors and at worst to try to keep the Lords from interfering with one another’s plans accidentally (key word: accidentally. Intentional interference happens). The Wyrmbreaker calls the council together and explains that he’s going to be doing something that involves a group of heroes and will probably kill the Queen of Aundair. The Shadowsword explains that he has plans involving Aurala, but based on his insights into the Prophecy, perhaps Durastoran could achieve the same results with the death of Kaius III—and he’d be happy to lend some agents to that cause. Perhaps the Wyrmbreaker agrees, perhaps he doesn’t, perhaps he agrees but still plans to see to it that Aurala dies.

The next thing is to understand what it takes to release an Overlord. It’s nothing so simple as breaking a seal or melting a ring. The conditions for the release of an Overlord are different for each one, and involve a long-term manipulation of the Prophecy. In the case of the Aurala death above, we’re not just talking about Aurala’s death; it would be trivial for one of the Lords of Dust to make that happen. Instead, it’s that a particular hero (the son of a particular person, herself the daughter of a particular person, born in particular circumstances) must kill a beloved ruler on a particular day with a particular weapon, and must do so believing they are serving a greater good but in fact be wrong. So the Lord of Dust not only can’t kill the ruler, they actually have to make sure that the person who does the killing doesn’t know why they are doing it. Some of the Overlords’ release conditions have nothing to do with one another; others are actually overlapping or contradictory, so actions cannot be taken to free one without directly screwing with another. This can result in Lords of Dust helping heroes. The problem is, if a Lord of Dust is helping you, you can be certain it’s somehow benefiting them.

If an Overlord is released, it generally won’t return at full power. It will take time for its power to grow.  Bel Shalor was released, and wreaked havoc in Thrane for almost a year before he was finally bound again by the sacrifice of Tira Miron. It wasn’t the end of the world; it was simply a year of utter terror for the people of Thrane. Of course it’s possible that Bel Shalor intended this all along as a way of infecting the Silver Flame, and thus his release wasn’t as devastating as it could be. But generally, the immediate release of an Overlord will affect an area of a few miles, spreading out until it encompasses a nation or more. The impact will also greatly depend on WHICH Overlord is released. An incarnation of madness or war will cause immediate violence or insanity. An elemental force like Dral Khatuur would cause a new ice age. But an incarnation of tyranny or betrayal may have a very subtle effect that takes years to really be noticed. It’s entirely possible that the Mourning was caused by the release of an Overlord, and that there are continuing effects that people simply haven’t identified. Essentially, the effect of an Overlord’s release is up to the DM. It could have instantly apocalyptic effects, or it could be a slow cancer that eats away at the region over time.

Tied to this, I once had a PC warlock in my campaign who was actually a willing agent of an Overlord. The idea behind his character was that it was inevitable that an overlord would eventually be released… but his overlord would at least keep society intact in a form that people could live in, as opposed to dissolving it into chaos, war, or ice. Life in the domain of his overlord might be endless tyranny and oppression and tears of blood, but it’s far better than what you’d get from Tul Oreshka or Rak Tulkhesh. He didn’t LIKE the future he believed was coming, but he believed that ONE of them had to get out eventually, and his was the best option.

So bearing all that in mind…

Is there a list of all the rajahs already published somewhere? With the rajahs theme, location and where to find the full writeup?

I’ve never done it. However, Lord Gore at the WotC forums put together this list, which may be the most comprehensive around; I’ve updated it with Overlords mentioned since it was written.

  1. Bel Shalor, the Shadow in the Flame (Tamor Hills, Khorvaire) ECG page 29
  2. Dral Khatuur, the Heart of Winter (Frostfell) female overlord Druid 25/Sorcerer 15/Frost MageFb 10 Death, ColdFb, WinterFb unpublished
  3. Eldrantulku the Oathbreaker (unknown) NE male overlord rogue 15/sorcerer 15/mindbenderCAr 10 CorruptionBoVD, Trickery Dragon 337 pages 63, 69-70
  4. Katashka the Gatekeeper (Lair of the Keeper, Khorvaire) LE male overlord cleric 8/wizard 8/true necromancerLM 14 Deathbound, UndeathECS DoE page 36, Dragon 337 page 70, ECG page 30
  5. Rak Tulkhesh, the Rage of War (Khorvaire) NE male overlord fighter 15/blackguard 10/cleric 15 Destruction, War; Dragon 337 pages 65, 70; ECG page 31; Eye on Eberron, Dragon 314
  6. Ran Iishiv the Unmaker (Korrandar, Sarlona) SoS page 12
  7. Sakinnirot the Scar that Abides (Stormreach, Xen’drik) CoS page 156
  8. Shudra the Fleshrender (Mel-Aqat, Xen’drik) PGtE page 155, TFoW page 127
  9. Sul Khatesh the Keeper of Secrets (Arcanix, Khorvaire) LE female overlord wizard 36/archmage 4 Knowledge, Magic CoS 89, Dragon 337 pages 60, 68; ECG pg 31
  10. Tiamat, the Daughter of Khyber (Pit of Five Sorrows, Argonnessen) DoE page 9
  11. Tul Oreshka, the Truth in the Darkness (unknown) CE female overlord bard 20/wizard 10/loremaster 10 Madness, ShadowECS Dragon 337 pages 64, 70
  12. Masvirik the Cold Sun (Haka’Torvhak, Q’Barra); Dungeon 185 (DDI)
  13. Unnamed (Krertok Peninsula, Sarlona) SoS page 12
  14. Unnamed (Sustrai Mor, Sarlona) SoS page 91
  15. Unnamed (Tempest’s Isle, Lhazaar Principalities) PGtE page 99 possibly a rajah
  16. Yad-Raghesh (The Vale of the Fallen Rajah, Argonnessen) colossal two-headed overlord DoE page 50 “dead”
  17. The Spinner of Shadows (Xen’drik), DDO

I believe that Sul Khatesh is the only one that’s received a complete 3.5 writeup, in Dragon 337. I’ll also note that I prefer the term Overlord to rajah. “Rajah” tends to get subsumed into “rakshasa rajah”—and while the Overlords rule the rakshasa, they are not themselves rakshasa.

For you, how many overlords do exist? There is 17 listed, that’s all? There is a couple more? 17 more? A hundred more?

According to the Eberron Campaign Guide (page 30), “approximately thirty fiendish overlords are bound in Khyber.”

How big is the area of influence of an overlord?

Thirty overlords once held dominion over all of Eberron. A fully empowered overlord can easily hold dominion over an entire nation. However, it will take time for a released overlord to regain its full power. Its immediate dominion would cover a few miles, and would then quickly grow until it covered an entire nation or more.

If Katashka is made free, how long until the effects(pests, deaths, undead hordes) are sensed in the Talenta Plains? And Q’barra? Or Xen’drik/Sarlona?

That’s entirely up to you. You could decide that Katashka’s influence spreads quickly and that within days wights are crawling out of cemeteries across the world. Or you could decide that his power is growing slowly and won’t expand exponentially until Mabar’s next coterminous phase.

What if more than one overlord is released. Would they ally or make war on one another?

It entirely depends on what overlords they are. The Voice in the Darkness doesn’t do alliances. The Oathbreaker will, but there’s no question that any alliance with him will end in betrayal. And in some cases there’s no real basis for alliance—Rak Tulkhesh wants endless war, while Dral Khatuur simply wants to freeze everything in her reach. Some might fight, but such a feud might be even worse for mortals in the disputed territory than an alliance.

Are the overlords friendly to each other enough to release some or all of the other still bound ones? If Bel Shalor breaks his bonds, he will stride to Aundair and try to release Sul Khatesh, or he will just make sure she never gets free?

First, Bel Shalor can’t stride to Aundair and release Sul Khatesh. For Sul Khatesh to be released, the conditions of her Prophecy must be met. It doesn’t matter how much raw power Bel Shalor brings to bear; releasing an overlord is delicate work. Now, would he TRY to? Possibly. Bel Shalor in particular is a devious force, and has clearly learned a thing or two from his imprisonment. He might well see the value in releasing as many of the other overlords as possible, where Tul Oreshka just wouldn’t bother. On the other hand, there are certainly rivalries and some overlords might work against one another. It’s been noted that Dral Khatuur has no love for any of the others, and as a result she doesn’t have representatives on the Council of Ashtakala.

How common is the knowledge about how their prison works or where each of of then is between the overlords? Does every overlord know how to break free? Or how to break other free?

Extremely uncommon, no, and no. The secrets are all held in the Prophecy. It likely took thousands of years of study before any rakshasa figured out the secrets of releasing their master, and there may well be ones whose release conditions have never been identified. One thing to bear in mind is that the Prophecy is a living thing that constantly shifts as the future becomes the present. So Rak Tulkhesh can be released if X, Y, and Z happen. If you remove Z from the equation—by destroying the person who was supposed to have a child or the sword that child was supposed to use—the universe will simply recalculate and find a new way to solve for Z; and all the scholars who knew the original answer will have to keep studying until they figure it out. This is what the Chamber does: seek to identify paths that will release Overlords and eliminate them, while the Lords of Dust find paths that will release them. It’s a never ending conflict, even though it rarely comes to a demon and a dragon fighting one another.

What should the response of the Argonessen dragons be if an overlord is released?

Rebinding an overlord is just as difficult as releasing one, and in the same way, brute force is no answer. Bel Shalor wreaked havoc for a year in Thrane before Tira defeated him. Do you think Argonnessen just didn’t know or care? They knew; they simply had no path to rebind him, so they stayed far away. They may well have helped Tira without her knowing it. Just as it doesn’t help Sul Khatesh to have a rakshasa kill Queen Aurala, it doesn’t help Argonnessen if an army of dragons defeats Bel Shalor; he’d just reform tomorrow. So Argonnessen would get to work trying to find an answer to the problem, and trying to isolate themselves from the impact of the release. But brute force—even all the magic of Argonnessen—is no answer to the release of an overlord.

Of course it’s possible they would take action to contain the impact of a release. If the Rage of War gets out and transformed the Five Nations into a raving army of bloodthirty reavers, the dragons might sink their boats before they can reach Argonnessen. But this won’t stop Rak Tulkhesh.

And what about Aerenal? Are they safe against one overlord? Two? How long could take to the free overlord to crack the island defenses?

The Undying Court is essentially an artificial overlord. As such, it would be able to stave off the hostile influence of another overlord for a time, but as noted above, it would also depend on the form that influence takes. Tul Oreshka drives mortals mad. Rak Tulkhesh drives them to war. Aerenal could keep Rak Tulkhesh from infecting the elves, but they can’t stop him from flinging hordes of reavers at the island. And if you had an alliance of overlords, who knows?

Realizing that the bonds of the Daelkyr have to be maintained, and with the chaos brought by one or more released overlords, is safe to assume that sooner or later they would falter, and the mad gods would spill in Eberron again. How could they interact with the acting overlord(s)?

Daelkyr are small potatoes next to overlords. Bear in mind that the daelkyr aren’t even the toughest things in Xoriat; they’re just the toughest things that have any interest in other planes. Beyond that it depends on the overlord in question. The Voice in the Darkness might welcome the daelkyr. Rak Tulkhesh doesn’t care who’s fighting as long as someone is. An overlord who actually wants to exert dominion over mortals and have some semblance of civilization—an incarnation of Tyranny, for example—would need to deal with the daelkyr to keep them from wrecking that. But many overlords might just incorporate the daelkyr into their plans.

And Sarlona? What would be the Dreaming Dark response to an age of demons again?

Pretty much any free Overlord will mess things up for the Dreaming Dark. However, the Dreaming Dark has never been noted as having expert knowledge of the Prophecy, which means a) they don’t have lots of warning about it and b) they don’t really know what to do to deal with it. And remember, fiends don’t dream. Again, the Dreaming Dark was active when Bel Shalor spent a year free in Thrane. Most likely they would keep their distance while studying the situation and trying not to panic about it. They might provide aid to whoever proves to have a chance to bind it. But a Riedran army won’t help. Thought they may not know that—so if you WANT them to, you could have them panic and do something dramatic, simply so it can fail awesomely. Heck, a confrontation between the Dreaming Dark and an overlord might be just what it takes to push Dal Quor into the next age… which could be the best thing that could possibly happen, if the next age of Dal Quor is one of light.

You mentioned that “An individual Overlord is equivalent in power to il-Lashtavar (the force behind the Dreaming Dark) or the entire Undying Court”, but then said that il-Lashtavar would lose against an overlord. Isn’t that a contradiction? Do the Quori stand no chance?

The power of il-Lashtavar isn’t directly relevant because it can’t manifest on Eberron. The specific phrase I used was “any free Overlord would mess things up for the Dreaming Dark.” Chaos is the enemy of the Dreaming Dark: they seek to enforce stagnant order and stability, and any free Overlord would shake that up. The power of the Dreaming Dark is spread over continents, and it’s not like they’d want to pull every active Inspired away from what they are doing to battle an Overlord… and even if they could defeat it, it would be reborn. So rather than fighting it directly, I would expect them to operate as they always do – by manipulating mortals to fight the battle for them.

If a Lord of Dust was killed, would the death be for good (akin to killing a demon in the Abyss) or would it reform somewhere?

In Eberron, immortal spirits cannot be destroyed. Unless they are bound, they will always reform. This is true of every immortal from rakshasa to devils to quori. Depending on the type of immortal, it may not retain its memories after death and reincarnation. This is true of quori, and it’s why the Dreaming Dark seeks to exterminate the Kalashtar quori – so they can be reintegrated and reborn as part of il-Lashtavar. With rakshasa, weaker ones generally lose memories, while strong ones (such as the Council of Ashtakala) will generally reform with memories intact. Now, there are ways to ensure that you destroy the memories, and ways to delay that reincarnation, and the key there is to know your Prophecy. Kill the Wyrmbreaker with normal steel on a Tuesday and he’ll be back by Thursday. But if the Son of Seven Sorrows kills him with a silver sword forged in the tears of the Keeper under the light of a new moon, he might be dead for a year and a day. Which is to say, a DM should always feel free to come up with interesting circumstances under which it is possible to effectively kill a fiend.

Are there angelic or good aligned counterparts to the overlords?

If you mean “Is there an incarnate force that’s called something like ‘The Cuteness of Kittens’?” No, there isn’t. If you mean “Is there any sort of native celestials on Eberron,” there WERE: the couatl. They were never as powerful as the Overlords, and were more on par with the rakshasa… and they sacrificed themselves to create the Silver Flame. On some level you could say that the Silver Flame is the good counterpart to the Overlords, which is why it can bind them; it’s simply less concrete and more abstract.

Why is this? Look to the progenitor myth. Khyber killed Siberys and was in turn imprisoned by Eberron. The Overlords are Khyber’s children, and like Khyber, are forces of evil that cannot be vanquished, only bound. Eberron doesn’t produce incarnate spirits like the Overlords: her children are mortal. So Eberron DID create a thing that embodies the cuteness of kittens: she created kittens. Meanwhile, Siberys would be the source of native celestials, and he did create some, like the couatl – but they were created from the blood of Siberys after his defeat, and thus lack the power of the victorious Khyber.

From a purely practical worldbuilding standpoint, there’s a simple reason for this. Eberron is designed to be a world that needs heroes. All the powerful forces of good are limited. Jaela Daran is a child whose power is limited beyond Flamekeep. Oalian doesn’t leave the Greenheart. When evil rises, the world needs you; there is no ultimate good force that can step in and solve the problem for you. The Silver Flame can empower you to solve the problem, but it can’t solve the problem for you.

Is there not even a single surviving Couatl?

We have a few places in canon where there are still couatl who were left behind to watch over things. And there are of course the Shulassakar, the feathered yuan-ti. Beyond this, the fact that the couatl are gone from the word doesn’t mean that they can’t play a role–it means that they need your help to do it. Tira Miron was aided by a couatl, but it didn’t help her in corporeal form; it empowered her and advised her spiritually. In D&D 3.5 this is called divine channeling; I don’t know if 4E ever did a version of it. Essentially, it’s a form of possession that doesn’t actually control the person being possessed, instead granting them additional powers. The premise is that this isn’t something just anyone can do; Tira’s faith and courage made it possible, and it’s what defines her as the Voice of the Silver Flame — her ability to hear the Flame when others did not. So the couatl CAN affect the world, but only through the medium of heroes. Which comes back to that basic premise of Eberron: there are no forces of good that can solve the problem alone. They need you.

On the other hand, the Silver Flame preaches that it will one day cleanse the world from all evil, and naturally that involves the lords of dust, which entails that they are not truly invincible.

This idea comes from Faiths of Eberron. I didn’t work on that book, and I don’t agree with the idea. To me, the key of the Silver Flame is that you don’t fight because you think the battle can be won: you fight because it is that battle which makes the world a better place. There’s no end condition: it is an eternal struggle. There will always be a need for champions. There will always be a need for courage and sacrifice. Evil can’t be permanently vanquished, because good and evil are choices people make. You can’t eliminate lying from the world, because every time someone speaks they have the choice to lie. You can teach that person the value of honesty. You can encourage them to tell the truth. But if you truly eliminated their capacity to lie, you have taken away their free will, and how is that a good thing? This is the lesson of the Overlords. They will always be there, just as the potential for war, death, and treachery will always be there. Through our actions, we hold them at bay, both physically and in the human heart. Through courage and virtue, we show people the proper path and inspire them to be better than they are, to ignore the tempting whispers of evil. And when a noble soul dies their spirit joins the Flame, where it continues to hold evil at bay and strengthen those who fight it.

In several tales heroes tend to be inspired by higher noble powers and realize that they are still fragile and prone to temptation (this is well reflected by Eberron’s handle of alignments), and just as the lords of dust embody several aspects of evil (war…), there ought to be embodiments of goodness.

The Silver Flame is a positive source of spiritual power. It is a source of inspiration. But unlike the Overlords, it cannot act alone: it needs to act through champions. Again, this is part of what defines it as good; it cannot enforce its nature on others, but rather they must choose it. Rak Tulkhesh makes people fight. Katashka revels in death. There is no entity that forces you to be good; there are simply powers that can strengthen you if you choose to be good, just as it was Tira’s courage and virtue that allowed the couatl to empower her.

In my eyes, the fact that virtuous behavior is a choice is what makes it truly virtuous. If it is enforced–whether by a supernatural agency or a mortal power–it loses its meaning. The followers of the Silver Flame don’t do what they do because they expect to win and utterly eliminate all evil forever; they follow the precepts of the Flame because doing so is what makes the world a better place.

This is in marked contrast to the Blood of Vol, many of whose followers believe that they can some day eliminate the concept of death from the world; one can well ask what that would actually mean, and if in so doing they would also eliminate new birth. But that’s another topic. Meanwhile, you might want to consider the following…

Could the place of an Overlord be usurped, or could a person rise to become an overlord? For example, if Erandis Vol decided that her destiny was to achieve actual dominion over death, could she rise to become the embodiment of the concept of death, or failing that, usurp the place of Katashka as the gatekeeper of death?

Anything is possible. We have said that there are members of the Lords of Dust who don’t want to free their Overlord masters, but rather to usurp their power. If it’s possible for a rakshasa to do it, than it’s presumably possible for a human to do it; you’ve just got an interim step of becoming an entity of incarnate spirit like a rakshasa. With that said, you don’t have to usurp the power of an Overlord to become an embodiment of a concept. Erandis Vol wishes to become the Queen of Death (and bear in mind, she’s been working at it for thousands of years and has a unique spiritual basis for being able to do it–the Mark of Death–so clearly this isn’t a casual thing). However, I don’t think this requires her to displace Katashka. The Overlords embody horrible things. That doesn’t mean they govern them. Katashka embodies our fears of death and the horror of the undead. He can enslave the spirits of the dead and bind them to his service in the mortal world. But as he is part of this world, he doesn’t govern the fate of the dead in the worlds beyond. Rak Tulkhesh gains strength from strife, and when free he can create strife. But again, he only has dominion over the rage of war… he has nothing to do with a just conflict.

So the question you have to ask, is do you want to become an Overlord… a finite entity who can be bound and whose dominion is limited… or do you want to become a Sovereign, whose power is unbound and touches all it inspires? The Sovereign Host maintains that Dol Dorn and Dol Arrah can be found any time a blade is drawn, and that Onatar is there in every forge. Tied to the previous answer, the Sovereigns don’t take incarnate form; they inspire and act through mortal vessels. When you create something new, Onatar (or the Traveler) is with you. When you fight, Dol Dorn is with you. And, of course, when you choose to do evil in war, the Mockery is with you. But even the Mockery isn’t finite in the way an Overlord is.

People have sought to become Sovereigns before. The founder of the Library of Korranberg sought to displace Aureon as lord of knowledge. According to the draconic faith of Thir (as discussed in Dragons of Eberron), this is possible; when a new being takes on the mantle of a Sovereign, the previous one ascends to greater realms. Myths suggest that the first Sovereigns were ascended dragons who fought the Overlords in the first age. So there’s mythical precedent for it; it’s just a question of what it takes, and what it actually means if you succeed, since Sovereigns don’t manifest after ascension.

Is there any connection between Katashka the Gatekeeper and other prominent undead-themed entities (eg Vol and her followers).

Not according to canon. However, you could always decide that Katashka is connected to all negatively empowered undead, whether they know it or not… and that Vol, Kaius, and other influential undead are all secretly pawns in the Overlord’s plans. This certainly seems like a fine approach for starting with the Emerald Claw as a heroic tier threat, moving to Vol herself in paragon, and then bringing Katashka in as the true epic threat. For those wanting to know a little more about Katashka, check out Dragon 337 or this Eberron Expanded article.

Any idea what Overlord you would place under Sharn? Some of the details of Fallen (the improvement of which was a major goal of a paladin in one of my games) seems to imply something malign is buried below the city.

By canon, the spiritual force of evil in Sharn isn’t tied to an Overlord; it’s tied to the fact that it’s a dumping ground for Syrania where fallen angels… AKA Radiant Idols… are left to rot. My novel The Son of Khyber specifically addresses the idea of a malign spiritual force tied to Fallen. With that said, you could decide that the reason Sharn is such a great place for dumping angels – aside from being a manifest zone – is due to the presence of an Overlord.

Why could Siberys be killed, but Khyber only imprisoned? Or could Khyber be killed by (only) Eberron or an alive Siberys?

Assuming you take the myth at face value, there’s a few reasons. First, Khyber employed treachery, taking Siberys by surprise. Second, because that is what Khyber is: destruction. Treachery. Corruption. Evil. Eberron, on the other hand, is Life. Destruction isn’t in her nature. So she deals with Khyber by imprisoning him through creation–by building the world around Khyber, creating a living prison to hold her sibling at bay. One point I’ll make is that despite the power of Khyber’s children, their number is limited. They may never die, but if there are thirty overlords today, there will never be thirty-one tomorrow. Eberron’s children may be mortal, but they have the power of creation, and that’s something Khyber lacks. So again, Eberron didn’t create an immortal, stagnant overlord called the Cuteness of Kittens; she created kittens, and new kittens are born every day.

Of course, the progenitors and the myth are symbols as much as anything else. The triumph of Khyber explains why evil can exist in the world. Destruction cannot defeat creation, which is why Khyber can never escape Eberron; however, it can corrupt creation, as made manifest in the Age of Demons. The defeat of the demons shows that mortal life can choose a better path – that virtue can hold evil at bay – but as noted above, it can never be defeated eternally.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that the Ring of Siberys is the primary source of arcane energy; as such, even in death Siberys gives people the tools to change the world. They must decide whether to use them wisely.

I’m planning a campaign now and I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the Overlords and the planes… Dral Khatuur & Risia, Rak Tulkhesh & Shavarath. As Eberron natives, do you see them as being linked to the planes at all? Or do you prefer to emphasize ties to Eberron? Esp. curious about ones like those, where there’s some conceptual overlap.

Every plane has its own native spirits. The native spirits of Shavarath are the fiends and celestials who fight the Eternal War. The Overlords are native spirits of Eberron (or more, strictly, Khyber). It is true that Rak Tulkhesh embodies an aspect of war, and Shavarath embodies war. But the catch is that Shavarath is ONLY war, and ALL of its spirits represent war in some way. By contrast, Eberron is a realm where you can have war AND peace, life AND death. Thus, the native spirits of Eberron can embody ANY concept that has a place in Eberron.

One way to think about this: According to the creation myth, the Progenitors created the outer planes together. Khyber’s touch is especially strong in Kythri, Mabar, Shavarath and the like, while the hand of Siberys is felt in Syrania, Daanvi, and Irian. They crafted each of these planes around a single idea. Eberron is the final product, where all these ideas are blended together. So the native spirits of Eberron reflect the full spectrum of concepts, as opposed to the outsiders who are always tied to the core concept of their plane.

According to the myth, Eberron, Khyber and Siberys were “dragons”. So, why the children of Khyber are not dragons too?

The Progenitor myth is a metaphor. If you believe the myth, the Progenitors were beings who shaped planes. According the the legend, the planet is Eberron’s body – but the planet isn’t a giant dragon, is it? Again, assuming you believe the myth, it’s likely that the Progenitors were conceptual beings with no fixed form – that Eberron BECAME the planet to trap Khyber. But it’s not much of a story to say “In the beginning, there were three conceptual entities of no fixed form…”, and so we call them dragons.

The Overlords are themselves conceptual entities with no fixed form. The Lords of Dust article in Dragon 337 provided D&D 3.5 stats for Overlords, and noted that all Rajahs possess the following ability:

Change Form (Su): A rajah can assume any form from Fine to Colossal size, or simply increase or decrease its own size. This is similar to polymorph, but the rajah retains the outsider type and use of all of its special attacks and qualities while in another form. The rajah can maintain a form until it chooses a new one. 

Overlords have PREFERRED forms – Tiamat likes her five-headed dragon – but an Overlord can take any form it wants.

As a side note, per the classic myth, dragons as we know them were formed when drops of the blood of Siberys fell from the sky and struck Eberron. The different types of dragons are based on what the blood touched – so white dragons were born when the blood of Siberys struck ice, black dragons in the swamp, etc.

 I admit that I don’t like too much the idea that overlords don’t have a real form.

I didn’t explain the idea clearly. Overlords represent ideas. Their physical forms represent those ideas. Any overlord has a default, “resting form” that they tend to return to – such as Tiamat and the five-headed dragon. But an overlord may have a wardrobe of forms that reflect its core idea. Rak Tulkhesh might appear as a massive armored rakshasa; as a dragon with bloodstained claws and steel scales; as a handsome human general with blood on his hands. He will choose the form that fits the situation. And if he NEEDS to, he can become something else: A giant, a fly, a duck. But by default, his form will reflect his concept – and he has a few forms he will always return to, which are recorded in myths. In Dragons of Eberron there’s a picture of Dol Arrah fighting Katashka in the form of a dracolich; but that’s just one of Katashka’s shapes, chosen because it was fighting dragons.

If overlords exist since the beginning, do they KNOW if myths are true? Do they remember the agonizing Siberys and Khyber being trapped inside Eberron?

Overlords didn’t exist at the beginning. Per the legend, ALL life as we know it exists after the binding of Siberys. The Overlords emerged from the depths of Khyber onto the surface of Eberron — thus, after that legendary conflict. The beings who could have had personal interactions with the Progenitors would be the immortal spirits of the outer planes, as the planes were (according to myth) created before the struggle between Khyber and Eberron. So if you want to confirm it, check the libraries of Daanvi’s Infinite Archives. However, if you’d rather keep it mysterious, you could easily say that even the inhabitants of those planes had no contact with realms beyond their plane until after the final struggle – they were created, but they never personally encountered the entities that created them.

You’ve already made clear the differences between the Sovereign Host and the Overlords, but would you consider the Dark Six as a whole to be enemies of the Overlords as well? 

I’m going to rewrite my original answer to this question, because I think it was unclear. First of all, a defending element of the Sovereigns and Six is that their existence cannot be conclusively proven. They are said to be omnipresent and to influence their spheres wherever events occur. The Dols are present anytime blades are drawn. And yet they cannot physically manifest. In this, they are concretely different from Overlords, who influence a limited area (even if potentially a very large one) and can physically manifest. An Overlord can be bound, and an Overlord cannot. So in some ways it’s a meaningless question, because the Dark Six don’t manifest, so HOW WOULD YOU KNOW? With that said, I’d argue that EVERYONE is against the Overlords. If I’m a medusa priestess of the Shadow, I’m not going to look at Bel Shalor and say “I dunno, I kind of like the cut of his jib.” Among other things, most cultures that revere the Dark Six look at their positive elements. You could say that Tul Oreshka and the Fury have some overlap, but Tul Oreshka is PURE MADNESS, while the Fury can reflect the positive aspects of passion and emotion.

WITH THAT SAID: Canon sources suggest that many of the myths associated with the Sovereigns and Six are drawn from the actions of dragons in the First Age, who may have somehow ascended to become the Sovereigns; this is the foundation of Thir and the Church of the Wyrm Ascendant. By these principles, Dol Dorn, Dol Arrah and Dol Azur were all martial dragons, and Dol Azur was flayed after betraying the others – suggesting that he, at least, was working with the enemy. The dragon who became the Keeper may have had an alliance with Katashka. The MYTH of the Shadow may have been inspired by Bel Shalor – even though the Shadow that is worshipped in Droaam ISN’T Bel Shalor.

If I can humbly say my opinion, the dark six are very different from overlords.

They are entirely different. The Overlords embody very specific, dark concepts. Their influence is limited to a particular area. They can physically manifest. The Dark Six are broader in concept, universal in influence (if you believe in them) and can be seen in a positive light. Per canon sources, there are many in the Five Nations who worship the Dark Six in some way; the Three Faces of War, the Cannith Traveler cults, the Restful Watch. A Zil assassin could definitely offer a prayer to Dol Azur.

I remember you in other posts said that the myth of sovereign host exist in some way even in other planes. That suggests that they may exist since the very beginning, since before Eberron and Khyber maybe.

Yes and no. It’s unquestionably the case that in the Age of Demons, a number of dragons gained transcendental power and crafted identities that resemble the Sovereigns and Six. Beings on the outer planes interacted with these entities. This isn’t myth; this is fact. Asmodeus claims to have taught Aureon about politics. In 4E, the Sovereigns are credited with creating the demiplane of Baator.

But at the time they did these things, these beings were still less than the Sovereigns that are worshipped today. The people of the Five Nations don’t worship dragons (mostly), they worship omnipresent forces that shape reality. The question is HOW Ourelonastrix went from being an epic dragon to a divine force, and if someone else could… which is, again, the basis of the draconic religion of Thir.

 Would Rak Tulkhesh  be empowered by what philosophers call “just war” e.g. Self-defence. Would it empower an overlord, or only -as I think- aggressive conflicts or those in which atrocities as torture or attacks against civilians are committed no matter the justification? 

Rak Tulkhesh doesn’t care about goals. He doesn’t care about the overall cause: what you’re fighting for, what you’re trying to accomplish, what you do or don’t do to civilians. He cares about whether you HATE the person you are fighting, whether you hunger for vengeance, whether you yearn to hurt your opponents. He doesn’t care about Queen Aurala’s justification for war; he cares about what’s in the heart of the individual soldier when he drives his spear into the chest of an enemy. The EOE article says “He draws strength from every blow struck in anger, and his will drives the peaceful to hate. He is Rak Tulkhesh, the Rage of War.”

 

So one of the Shadowsword’s favorite things is to encourage people to start such “just wars”, because once blood is spilled it’s so much easier to fan the flames of hatred. The Lycanthropic Purge is a perfect example of this: the CAUSE was entirely just, but along the way hatred, fear, and the thirst for vengeance turned it into a bloody witch hunt.

Perhaps “just war” is embodied by the tenets of Dol Arrah and Dol Dorn and so they prevent it from empowering an overlord if no abuses are perpetrated?

Again, it’s not about the cause or the action: it’s about what’s in the heart of the soldier. If you can fight without feeling hate; if you can truly feel compassion and fight solely for justice, then your actions don’t strengthen Rak Tulkhesh, even if your cause is TERRIBLE. But if you are filled with hatred and bloodlust, the righteousness of your cause is meaningless.

Beyond that, Dol Arrah encourages just war and the Mockery supports treachery in the pursuit of victory, but Dol Dorn is simply about strength, courage and skill; he doesn’t particularly care if the war is just or not, he’s just about supporting the soldier.

How much do the Silver Flame church knows about the Lord of Dust and the Overlords? Do they know the organization, the names of the Overlords, that every demon is immortal, that every overlord can be set free following the path of the prophecy?

Good question. The foundation of the modern church is Tira’s struggle with an Overlord. From that, it’s logical to conclude that anyone who knows the story of Tira knows the following things.

  • There are ancient and powerful demons bound by the Silver Flame.
  • It is possible for them to escape, and they have demonic minions working to help free them.
  • These arch-fiends cannot be destroyed, only bound; this is why Tira’s sacrifice was necessary.
  • We must all be vigilant and prepared to make our own heroic sacrifices to protect the innocent from these forces of evil.

That much is common knowledge; it’s the basis of the faith. The greatest evil cannot be permanently destroyed; it can only be held at bay by the courage and sacrifice of good people. There are dangerous supernatural forces in the world scheming to do terrible things – fiends, undead, lycanthropes – and we need those with courage to take on the mantle of the templar and defend us from them.

Beyond that things get murkier. Bel Shalor is absolutely known and well documented, because he was freed and active in Khorvaire for a period of time… so there are records and accounts from people with first hand experience. Beyond that, it’s going to be much like the accounts of demons in OUR major religions. No human on Khorvaire has ever directly encountered Rak Tulkhesh. So what we have are accounts from sages who have spoken with Couatl, communed with the Flame, or encountered the influence of the Overlord or their minions. So while Rak Tulkhesh hasn’t been freed since the Church began, there have been Templars who have studied his influence, and surely at least one account claiming that one reason things went so wrong with the Lycanthropic Purge was because Rak Tulkhesh led the righteous astray. Meanwhile, looking to Draal Khatuur: no human has EVER encountered her or seen her influence at work. She might be included on a list of names of the Overlords – an scribe’s account of the words Tira relayed while in a trance speaking to her couatl guide, along with the name “The Heart of Winter” – but she’s been locked away in an almost entirely unexplored continent since before human civilization existed, so we don’t know much.

To further complicate matters: The Lords of Dust have been part of human civilization since the beginning. They are master manipulators who don’t WANT humanity to tell the truth. They even have agents in the Church of the Silver Flame. So for every true account that comes from some hero’s personal encounter with the Lords of Dust or a priest communing with a couatl or speaking with a dragon, you probably have two intentionally misleading accounts by rakshasa or sages duped by rakshasa that present misleading information: Rak Tulkhesh is only empowered by blood sacrifice, he can only influence deminhumans, he will be released from bondage when all the moons are full at the same time and Shavarath is coterminous. The forces of the Church have no way to perfectly verify these, and again, some Church historians surely are rakshasa or their agents.

Beyond this, remember that the Prophecy is always changing and that it’s almost impossible for a single mortal to see its full scope. So yes, it may be that the Church generally understands that the Overlords can be freed through the Prophecy – but they will be relying on accounts of sages to say what that means, and since one account was written the path of the Prophecy may have changed due to the actions of the LoD and the Chamber.

In part, this ties to What do you need for your story? If you WANT the players to have learned a chunk of the Prophecy that could release an Overlord, make it happen. But as a whole, what the Church has access to is a cauldron filled with a spectrum of good and bad information. This is what is reflected by a player character making a skill check. Someone with a reasonable check might know Tiamat is the name of an Overlord associated with dragons; someone with an exceptional skill check remembers the Codex Argent Draconum, the account of a paladin who spent an extensive amount of time working with a silver dragon who shared information about Tiamat and her legends. That information comes from in-world sources, and the degree of skill reflects both the player’s familiarity with the sources and ability to draw valid conclusions.

So: The Church knows there are demons active within the world. It even knows the names of some of these archfiends and their masters, along with stories about them that may or may not be true. These things are why the templars are always vigilant. We say that the purpose of the church is to defend the innocent from supernatural evil. This is a world where supernatural evil unquestionably exists. The Church trains exorcists because it knows they will be needed. But it doesn’t have perfect information about the enemy… all the more so because a particular cell of the Lords of Dust may literally have been laying dormant for the last thousand years waiting for the right moment to act.

After the Coautls sacrificed themselves and bound the Overlords, the remaining fiends retreated to the Demon Wastes. They plot from the ruins there. Are the cities and temples there ruins because of time, or did the dragons assault the Demon Wastes after they grew in power? Given the magic that they brought to bear against Xen’drik, and the fact that (some) dragons study the prophecy to combat (offensively and defensively) the Lords of Dust, have the dragons ever laid waste to the Demon Wastes throughout the history of Eberron?

The Demon Wastes are on my list of topics for an article when I have time. There’s a number of different factors here. The cities were ruined over the course of the millennia of conflict. But it is on the edge of Khyber, honeycombed with portals to demiplanes within Khyber. The rakshasa largely dwell in these demiplanes. Ashtakala itself exists between planes, draped in its own memories. Setting aside their impressive wards and powers, it’s difficult to spy on the Lords of Dust because much of the time they aren’t entirely on this plane. If they WERE to rebuild cities on the surfaces, the dragons would wipe them out again, and they may well have done so at times in the past. But they can’t be pried out of Khyber.

Did the Silver Flame only bind the Overlords, or were many other lesser fiends caught up in it’s power as well?

While the principle is that the small fish slipped through the net that bound the Overlords, I’ve always assumed that the majority of fiends were trapped in the Flame. During the Age of Demons, there were enough fiends to support cities of fiends, or to field vast armies. Tied to the previous question, there ARE still significant numbers of fiends in the worlds – but significantly fewer that existed in the First Age. So the release of an Overlord could easily include the release of a large force of lesser minions as well.

It’s my impression that the Night Hags made it out of the Age of Demons relatively unscathed, is that the case? And do they have their own imperative or are they also interested in releasing the Overlords?

That is the case. Despite technically being children of Khyber, they were never aligned with the Overlords. They’re neutral and independent; each one pursues their own agenda. Some served as envoys in the ancient conflict; others had no interest in it.

Do you see the Lords of Dust having an advantage over the Chamber in reading the prophecy because they are immortal and have more time, or could the rakshasas be hindered in their efforts because of limited perspective? Maybe both?

Absolutely both. Immortality is an advantage, and sages like the Bloody Sage and the Wyrmbreaker are the greatest individual authorities on the Prophecy. But at the same time, they largely operate in isolation, rarely sharing their secrets with the servants of other Overlords. By contrast, the Chamber has a host of scholars – and while they may not be immortal, they live for thousands of years and can draw on the work of those who have gone before them.

Short form: The rakshasa are the experts at the paths dealing with their specific Overlords, but the Chamber has a far WIDER view of the Prophecy and sees a bigger picture.

So I think the Lords of Dust have the edge on their specific threads – while the Chamber has a far WIDER view and has a greater understanding of the Prophecy as a whole.

Has there been a rakshasa artificer mentioned anywhere? Someone that has, over the many thousands of years, been equipping the Lords of Dust and their innumerable pawns with fiendish items? I wonder if Eberron’s take on low level magic and items applies to the fiends as well, especially given their natural talents with magic.

The rakshasa do produce magic items for their servants and even for themselves; most notably, they have a very high demand for items that can protect deep cover rakshasa from divination magic. I don’t think they are bound to low level magic; on the contrary, I think they can produce artifacts. BUT… I don’t think they’ve ever embraced the industrial approach to magic that differentiates the artificer from the wizard. A rakshasa might be able to make an artifact, but it is a focused piece of work that could take decades… because, of course, the rakshasa HAS decades.

Essentially, the raksahsa have been doing this for a hundred thousand years. If they were innovative, they’d have innovated by now. If they could developed entirely new forms of magic, they would have. So I think that they are still making the same things they would have made in the Age of Demons. In my mind, this is also the slight edge that the mortals have. Rakshasa like the Wyrmbreaker are epic-level magi capable of producing wonders, but new techniques – the artificer, things like incarnum – are beyond them.

Does anyone in other planes care about Overlords? They’re so powerful that they could easily access dimensional travel and change things there.

Their vast power is precisely why they CAN’T access dimensional travel. The most powerful spirits of planes are tightly bound to their planes; they are literally a PART of that plane, and they can’t separate from it. This is why the Quori can come to Eberron, but il-Lashtavar can’t… and why we have pointed out that the Daelkyr aren’t the most powerful spirits of Xoriat, but simply the most powerful entities that have come from Xoriat.

Is there any reason for you choosing to have “more or less 30 overlords” instead of canonic number of 12+1 (bel shalor maybe)?

Because we concretely didn’t want to have a completely list of Overlords. From the outset, we wanted to leave room for individual DMs to add Overlords to fit the needs of the story… and for us to have room to do the same. This ties to the fact that the Overlords’ powers are limited in scope. Which means that when I wrote an article exploring Q’barra in more depth, I could add a new Overlord – Masvirik, the Cold Sun – without contradicting previous material or having to force an existing Overlord into a slot that doesn’t really fit.

It has been mentioned that in Eberron, Lolth could be one of the Overlords, like Tiamat. What about other famous villains from other settings, such as the other demon lords (Orcus, Demogorgorn, etc), maybe Vecna, or even the Tarrasque? If you wanted to use them, would you cast them as other Overlords, or servants equivalent to rakshasas, or maybe just powerful fiends on par with the Daelkyr?

Per 3.5 rules, Overlords are entities with power on par to divine rank. As a result, they are concretely more powerful than demon princes and archdevils. Here’s a (somewhat lengthy) thing I wrote for the Savage Tide adventure path, which involved Demogorgon.

The influence of Demogorgon raises one of the primary challenges of converting this adventure path to Eberron. The cosmology of Eberron is quite different from that of the Great Wheel… so where does Demogorgon reside in the Eberron Campaign Setting?  

            Many demons can be found in Shavarath, the eternal battleground. It is certainly possible to place Demogorgon in Shavarath as one of the generals of this endless war. However, the spirits of Shavarath are ultimately spirits of war; the demons of Shavarath may be creatures of chaos and evil, but they are still spirits of battle.

            But there is another alternative for the DM who wants demons to be spirits of pure evil, unbound by any ties to Shavarath or the outer planes: Khyber, the Dragon Below. Legends say that in the dawn of time, the vile dragon Khyber spawned fiends in the darkness, monsters that tormented the children of Eberron. The rakshasa are the best-known native fiends, and to this day it is the rakshasa that have the strongest presence in the world above. But Khyber’s children take many forms, and there is nothing preventing the Dragon Below from creating its own variations of the spirits found in Shavarath and Fernia. Balors, Mariliths, and even demon princes; all of these could be children of Khyber. Like the rakshasa, these Khyber-spawned demons are native outsiders, but they possess most traits of true outsiders; they do not need to eat or sleep, they are immune to the ravages of time, and the most powerful among them are truly immortal.

            As spawn of Khyber, the demons of Eberron are not tied to any planar agenda. They are not bound to the great war of Shavarath. Instead, they embody Khyber’s wrath and hatred of the world above. They seek to corrupt destroy the children of Eberron. Some may seek to free the Overlords of the Age of Demons, and these fiends will usually join with the Lords of Dust. But many are spirits of pure chaos and evil, and seek only the pleasure of sowing discord and pain across Eberron.

            And what of the Abyss? Again, it could be grafted onto Shavarath, with each layer being one more battlefield. But it can also be bound to Khyber. Eberron is a magical world, and it does not have to obey the laws of logic. An adventurer who ventures too far beneath the surface of Eberron will be amazed by the horrors that lurk below. A deep cavern can open into the endless maze of Baphomet. A whirlpool can draw unwary travelers into the abyssal ocean. Many people think Xen’drik is the ultimate destination for the pulp adventurer. But the most exotic and terrifying realms are not across the water; they lie beneath it, in the very heart of the Dragon Below. While these are not outer planes, they exist beyond normal space and cannot be reached by normal forms of teleportation; travelers must either find the proper path between the realms or emply planar magic to step into these demiplanes.

            This is the path that these conversions will follow. Demogorgon is one of the lords of the worlds within the world. While he is weaker than the great Overlords of the Age of Demons, he is one of the mightiest spirits that remains unbound. He stands apart from the Lords of Dust; he seeks to claim the power of the rajahs for his own, not to free these ancient spirits. He is a patient being, and his plans take centuries to unfold. Now his latest scheme is coming to fruition, as the savage tide begins to rise.

So: that’s the approach I would take with Orcus and Demogorgon – powerful native fiends, above the rakshasa but below the Overlords. Looking to the Tarrasque, I might similarly make it a Khyber-spawned immortal force – but I wouldn’t consider it an Overlord.

Have you used the Lords of Dust in a campaign? Post your questions and experiences below!

64 thoughts on “Eberron Flashback: The Lords of Dust

  1. Hey Keith. Thanks as always for fielding these questions. Are there other Overlords whose prisons are spread between multiple crystals like Rak Tulkhesh? Do any others have similarly unique prison setups?

    • I don’t think we’d discussed many of them in detail. Tiamat is in the Pit of Five Sorrows, which may be the most dramatic and public tomb beyond Flamekeep. At the end of the day, the Silver Flame is what is actually binding the Overlords. The “tomb” is a focal point for their power and lingering influence, but it’s not like you can release Tiamat from the Pit of Five Sorrows just by going there – it’s simply that her influence remains strong there. So you could certainly have more metaphorical prisons… an overlord bound to a bloodline, or something like that. You couldn’t free or destroy the Overlord by destroying the bloodline (because either way, someone would have) – so it would likely be that if the bloodline was wiped out, the “prison” would transfer to a new one (maybe the line of whoever kills the last member of the previous line, or something like that).

      • And perhaps that bloodline leaves a physical mark on the body…

        Mwahahahaha, that’s an idea worth exploring, thanks!

        The Lords of the Dust are one of my favourite groups of villains, so they usually worm their way into my stories, even if it’s just as background players. I’ve actually used them several times in variations of The Red Hand of Doom. The first had the hobgoblins backed by The Chamber invading the Eldeen Reaches, who were trying to restore the Dhaakani Empire to power. The heroes ended up being a spanner in the works, though, and the Lords of the Dust seized control of the planer dragon that the hobgoblins ended up unleashing in a last ditch effort to take over the Vale. The dragon ended up exterminating almost all of the Dhaakani left on the planet, which unleashed Eldrantulku, The Oathbreaker. I’ve also used Cold Sun in place of Tiamet for the Red Hand of Doom in Q’barra, with Cold Sun having corrupted both lizardfolk and hobgoblins. Then there is the Age of Worms, which I’m actually hoping to run again sometime soon. Most of the adjustments I’ve made are pretty usual, and based off your Conversion Notes.

        • The strange thing about this is that Dragonmarks only appeared around 3,000 years ago and on races that flat-out didn’t exist when the Overlords were bound – notably Elves, who were created from Eladrin stock in the Age of Giants. It’s questionable if humans existed in their current form; the Overlords were bound over a hundred thousand years ago, while Cro-Magnon humans have only existed for forty thousand years.

          I prefer the idea that all Dragonmarks are a Daelkyr experiment to manipulate the Prophecy. But if you wanted to run with this, you could say that it’s the result of the Lords of Dust transferring the prison into Dragonmarks.

          • Couldn’t another possibility be a situation like Bel Shalor, where an Overlord broke free and had to be rebound? The only difference would be they were bound to living flesh rather than Khyber Crystals.

          • Sure! It could be a great secret chapter of history that the players uncover over the course of play.

  2. Dear Keith, you mentioned that “An individual Overlord is equivalent in power to il-Lashtavar (the force behind the Dreaming Dark) or the entire Undying Court”, but then said that il-Lashtavar would lose against an overlord. Isn’t that a contradiction? Do they Quori stand no chance? On the other hand, are the Overlords afraid of the Silver Flame? An analogy with Earth religion I like in my Eberron games is that Overlords are extremely proud and so feel humiliated when mortals behave saintly and channel the holy energy of the Silver Flame to bind them or thwart their plans. For instance, just avoiding temptation to take revenge or hate they may resist and defeat the spirit of the fiends. Do you agree? Thanks so much!

    • …but then said that il-Lashtavar would lose against an overlord.

      I’ll answer this in the main text, but at the moment I’m not sure I understand the question. When you say that *I* said “il-Lashtavar would lose against an Overlord” – what specific statement are you referring to? il-Lashtavar doesn’t manifest physically on Eberron, so there’s no way to actually have a direct confrontation; it’s just a matter of comparing their approximate mystical power. If you mean my statement “Pretty much any free Overlord will mess things up for the Dreaming Dark,” that’s talking about the organization, not il-Lashtavar specifically – but I’d be happy to go into more detail about that.

      • Thanks for answering. I was thinking of when you said “Pretty much any free Overlord will mess things up for the Dreaming Dark.” Sure, you’re right, it refers to the organization, although I thought perhaps il-Lashtavar could challenge or resist an Overlord

  3. I’m actually planning a reveal in the next couple sessions of my game that the great raging red dragon the party has been plotting against, stealing from and preparing an army to crush is actually a member of the Chamber, and the evil, conniving hag that’s been mysteriously supporting the party behind the scenes up till now is a rakshasa.

    I’m not sure how to go about it. I’ve been laying the groundwork for this for months, and from the very first session fighting the Emerald Claw on the roof of a train on the Day of Mourning the party has been uniquely marked in ways that will show up in the Prophecy.

    But… the actual reveal… like, I don’t want to go too subtle, otherwise the growing dread when the party realizes they’ve killed a force of Good in the name of Evil… like, that’s so rich, I want it to happen.

    On the other hand, if I go too heavy-handed, like “U WALK INTO A ROOM IN THE DRAGON LAIR AND FIND A PROPHECY AND UR IN IT” is, well, equally undramatic as them not noticing what they’ve done.

    Actually this gives me an idea…

    All along, I’ve been imagining that this Rakshasa has been arrogantly manipulating things to the party’s advantage. Bribing officials to get the party access to the armies they want to raise, allowing them to stumble upon secrets and magic items designed to wreak havoc on the enemies of the Rakshasa while she carefully grooms them for their Prophecy… and that this red dragon has been too caught up in his rage and struggling to figure out why the people raising an army against him have Nondetection cast on them 24/7.

    But what if the dragon KNOWS? What if this red dragon reads about its own death in the Prophecy, knows that if the adventurers defeat it against all odds, it somehow screws up the manipulations of the rakshasa? And allows itself to fight and die to let that happen.

    I’m not sure if it’s my favorite idea, I think I like it much better if the dragon’s just a Chaotic Evil member of the Chamber who is doing good on a grand scale but not a micro scale. But that could be an interesting twist…

    • It’s definitely an interesting idea. It’s also exactly the sort of thing you could drop on the players themselves before it’s too late. The dragon says “Wait! You’re the Child of the Storm! If you kill me… I’ve seen it in the Prophecy, Bel Shalor will be freed! You must believe me!” Do the players trust the chaotic evil dragon, who clearly wants to save his skin? Or do they assume it’s BS, until Bel Shalor shows up a few months later…

  4. Hello Keith! It’s always nice to read from you 🙂
    1) according to the myth, Eberron, Khyber and Siberys where “dragons”. So, why the children of Khyber are not dragons too? Or maybe they ARE, and the Overlords are half fiend-half dragons?
    2) if overlords exist since the beginning, do they KNOW if myths are true? Do they remember the agonizing Siberys and Khyber being trapped inside Eberron?
    3) Off topic, but: is the Thelanis in play serie completed? Shouldn’t it have one last chapter on fairies as villains?

    • I’ve answered #1 and #2 at the end of the main post.

      As for #4, I currently have four articles in draft at the moment, and the Fey Patrons/Villains is one of them. Because my time is limited, I’m jumping on whatever topic inspires me when I have a free moment.

      • Thanks for your answers. I admit that I don’t like too much the idea that overlords don’t have a real form. It seems to me a bit far from the concept (that you explained in this blog and that I love) that immortals aren’t free as living creatures, that they have to be what they are.

        That inspires me an almost philosophic question 🙂
        You teach that angels don’t just “turn evil”. If they become evil they become radiant idols. So:
        1) why radiant idols are not immortal as angels are in Eberron?
        2) in another post you said that similarly to angels, if a rakshasa would turn good, it would become a new kind of creature… but what if an overlord, after millennia in touch with the silver flame, would become good? Would the world itself change in some way to reflect it’s change? How would the Lord of dust react?

        • I admit that I don’t like too much the idea that overlords don’t have a real form.

          I didn’t explain the idea clearly. Overlords represent ideas. Their physical forms represent those ideas. Any overlord has a default, “resting form” that they tend to return to – such as Tiamat and the five-headed dragon. But an overlord may have a wardrobe of forms that reflect its core idea. Rak Tulkhesh might appear as a massive armored rakshasa; as a dragon with bloodstained claws and steel scales; as a handsome human general with blood on his hands. He will choose the form that fits the situation. And if he NEEDS to, he can become something else: A giant, a fly, a duck. But by default, his form will reflect his concept – and he has a few forms he will always return to, which are recorded in myths. In Dragons of Eberron there’s a picture of Dol Arrah fighting Katashka in the form of a dracolich; but that’s just one of Katashka’s shapes, chosen because it was fighting dragons.

          why radiant idols are not immortal as angels are in Eberron?
          Who said they aren’t? I’ve always considered radiant idols to be immortal; this is why you see a few of them imprisoned in Sharn instead of simply being killed. In The Son of Khyber, a radiant idol is BOUND using soul-binding magic. Otherwise, they are immortal in the same way as rakshasa, angels, and other outsiders.

          What if an overlord, after millennia in touch with the silver flame, would become good? Would the world itself change in some way to reflect it’s change? How would the Lord of dust react?

          It’s an interesting idea, and I think the effect would depend entirely on the concept associated with the Overlord. Tiamat reflects the darkness in the hearts of dragons; perhaps if turned around, she would inspire light in the hearts of dragons. Given that the default form reflects the idea, perhaps she would become a shining platinum dragon.

          Of course, my personal philosophy with Eberron is that I don’t WANT powerful, active forces of good in the world that overshadow the actions of heroes. Where there are forces of good, I want them to need to work through heroes. So it’s an interesting plot, but not one I’d personally explore.

          • It would still be bounded by the silver flame, a distant Patron that is not the Chamber. Maybe the Patron of a warlock. Or it could be a twist plot in an evil campaign. But I agree with you that is mostly a theoretical question 🙂

  5. I’m running Hoard of the Dragon Queen into Rise of Tiamat (tailored for Eberron) and I wanted to incorporate Masvirik.

    – Since Masvirik has power over creatures of scale & fang & venomous things that slither through the shadows; while Tiamat reflects the darkness in the hearts of dragons, and they’re cousins, are they rivals or allies?
    – Were they imprisoned in the same era/event or did one happen much later?
    – Could their prisons be linked, such that the weakening of one strengthens the other, or that one can only be free if both are freed?
    – Was there ever a map or adventure created for Haka’torvhak?
    – Is there a group or individual interested in freeing both?
    – Are any Argonnessen dragons tasked with monitoring Rhashaak and/or Haka’torvhak?

    • There’s not much canon information on Masvirik, so all of the things you describe are really up to you: what works best for your story? I think it’s reasonable to establish Masvirik and Tiamat as allies, and to say that their cults are shared – so the Talons of Tiamat would work with the Poison Dusk to free both. None of the canon sources mention dragons currently tasked with monitoring Rhashaak; you could certainly add one, or you could say that hey avoid it, fearing that any such monitors would be corrupted as Rhashaak was.

      Was there ever a map or adventure created for Haka’torvhak?

      There’s a piece in the Explorer’s Handbook (which I didn’t work on, and that doesn’t use Masvirik), but it looks like there’s no map.

  6. One of my Eberron campaigns (a post-apocalyptic future version of another one I’m also currently running) has seen the Overlords Bel Shalor, Dagon and Tiamat released from their prisons for some time before finding themselves in a standstill, manipulated by a fourth Overlord. While they can’t expand their dominion across more terrain, they hold sway over regions of Khorvaire, Argonnessen and the Thunder Sea like in the Age of Demons, and they are still able to send agents across borders to expand their influence in lesser ways.

    While the choice of Overlords was logical for the campaign because of their introduction in the original campaign, I find them overlapping conceptually quite a bit. Bel Shalor’s treachery seems to have a lot of overlap with Tiamat when it comes to dragons, and both Dagon and the Shadow (which might be Bel Shalor) have “forbidden knowledge” as a primary theme. And that’s not even accounting for the fourth Overlord, which has treachery as a primary area of influence as well (although it is currently not as active as the first three).

    So aside from purely elemental aspects (Bel Shalor as fire, Dagon as water and Tiamat as air), how would you differentiate them from one another?

    Also, on a side note: Considering the relatively high power level of a rakshasa, I had always imagined them to be fairly few in number (since they would be reincarnated after death anyway). Was the intent for them to have enough numbers to actually form a nation, or rather to just have a smaller elite number for each overlord, for example a prakhutu and twelve servants?

    • So aside from purely elemental aspects (Bel Shalor as fire, Dagon as water and Tiamat as air), how would you differentiate them from one another?

      Bel Shalor is about corruption – paranoia, betrayal, cruelty. Tiamat is specifically about the darkness in DRAGONS. There’s a few ways to take this. One is to say that most of the Overlords – specifically, Bel Shalor – CAN’T influence dragons, which is why there’s a niche for Tiamat to fill. The other is to say that Tiamat is about more than just corrupting dragons; she is about the fear dragons inspire in others and the devastation they can produce. Those dragons that ally with her may become stronger, even as they become greedier and crueler. Flights of dragons may act within supernatural coordination, guided by her hand. And members of lesser races who fall under her sway may be filled with awe and fear of dragons, and be quick to surrender to the scaled overlords.

      Also, on a side note: Considering the relatively high power level of a rakshasa, I had always imagined them to be fairly few in number (since they would be reincarnated after death anyway). Was the intent for them to have enough numbers to actually form a nation, or rather to just have a smaller elite number for each overlord, for example a prakhutu and twelve servants?

      The thing to remember is that like demons and devils, rakshasa come in a wide range of power levels. The Bloody Scribe, the Shadowsword, the Wyrmbreaker – spirits of this power are few in number. They are the prakhutu, and a handful beyond. But for every epic-level Lord of Dust like the Voice of Chaos (CR 24 in 3.5 terms), there’s a host of lesser rakshasa. For example, a Zakya rakshasa is only CR 8. Lesser rakshasa are scattered across Eberron, largely as deep-cover moles who may multiple mortal lifetimes playing a particular role to help their prakhutu push the Prophecy in a particular path.

      So: while they might not form a nation, there are certainly a few thousand of rakshasa in existence. But they are led by a small force of epic-level rakshasa, and THESE are the “Lords of Dust” the name refers to.

      Side note: The powerful rakshasa generally keep their identity and memories when they die and are reborn, unless you create a story hook that breaks this. However, lesser rakshasa DON’T retain personalities. So their number remains constant, but technically you can “kill” a lesser rakshasa – it’s just that a new one will be born to take its place.

      • Thanks, that makes a lot of sense. I especially like the idea of Tiamat causing people to be affected in relation to dragons.

        As for why Tiamat affects dragons specifically, I guess one could argue that they behave differently on a metaphysical level because of their connection to Siberys.

        You’ve already made clear the differences between the Sovereign Host and the Overlords, but would you consider the Dark Six as a whole to be enemies of the Overlords as well? I seem to remember something about Dol Azur fighting on the side of the Sovereigns initially, but it’s hard to imagine, say, the Shadow and the Fury taking action against Bel Shalor and Rak Tulkhesh, respectively. It’s even mentioned that some consider Bel Shalor to be the Shadow.

        • You’ve already made clear the differences between the Sovereign Host and the Overlords, but would you consider the Dark Six as a whole to be enemies of the Overlords as well?

          I’m going to rewrite my original answer to this question, because I think it was unclear. First of all, a defending element of the Sovereigns and Six is that their existence cannot be conclusively proven. They are said to be omnipresent and to influence their spheres wherever events occur. The Dols are present anytime blades are drawn. And yet they cannot physically manifest. In this, they are concretely different from Overlords, who influence a limited area (even if potentially a very large one) and can physically manifest. An Overlord can be bound, and an Overlord cannot. So in some ways it’s a meaningless question, because the Dark Six don’t manifest, so HOW WOULD YOU KNOW? With that said, I’d argue that EVERYONE is against the Overlords. If I’m a medusa priestess of the Shadow, I’m not going to look at Bel Shalor and say “I dunno, I kind of like the cut of his jib.” Among other things, most cultures that revere the Dark Six look at their positive elements. You could say that Tul Oreshka and the Fury have some overlap, but Tul Oreshka is PURE MADNESS, while the Fury can reflect the positive aspects of passion and emotion.

          WITH THAT SAID: Canon sources suggest that many of the myths associated with the Sovereigns and Six are drawn from the actions of dragons in the First Age, who may have somehow ascended to become the Sovereigns; this is the foundation of Thir and the Church of the Wyrm Ascendant. By these principles, Dol Dorn, Dol Arrah and Dol Azur were all martial dragons, and Dol Azur was flayed after betraying the others – suggesting that he, at least, was working with the enemy. The dragon who became the Keeper may have had an alliance with Katashka. The MYTH of the Shadow may have been inspired by Bel Shalor – even though the Shadow that is worshipped in Droaam ISN’T Bel Shalor.

          • I remember you in other posts said that the myth of sovereign host exist in some way even in other planes. That suggests that they may exist since the very beginning, since before Eberron and Khyber maybe.

            If I can humbly say my opinion, the dark six are very different from overlords. Overlords are pure evil. None of them could ever make any mortal happy. The dark six incarnate some concept that are “bad” for the current morality, from a sovereign host point of view. Some monsters won’t see any bad in the mockery. Some people would appreciate the freedom of the Fury. In a campaign I suggested that Zilargo hosts a lot of followers of the dark six, beliving in magical reserch, enslaving elementals, using assassins instead of honourable army and so on… and still nobody sees Zilargo as “pure evil”

          • I’ve changed my original response, which I think was unclear. But as to this….

            If I can humbly say my opinion, the dark six are very different from overlords.

            They are entirely different. The Overlords embody very specific, dark concepts. Their influence is limited to a particular area. They can physically manifest. The Dark Six are broader in concept, universal in influence (if you believe in them) and can be seen in a positive light. Per canon sources, there are many in the Five Nations who worship the Dark Six in some way; the Three Faces of War, the Cannith Traveler cults, the Restful Watch. A Zil assassin could definitely offer a prayer to Dol Azur.

            I remember you in other posts said that the myth of sovereign host exist in some way even in other planes. That suggests that they may exist since the very beginning, since before Eberron and Khyber maybe.

            Yes and no. It’s unquestionably the case that in the Age of Demons, a number of dragons gained transcendental power and crafted identities that resemble the Sovereigns and Six. Beings on the outer planes interacted with these entities. This isn’t myth; this is fact. Asmodeus claims to have taught Aureon about politics. In 4E, the Sovereigns are credited with creating the demiplane of Baator.

            But at the time they did these things, these beings were still less than the Sovereigns that are worshipped today. The people of the Five Nations don’t worship dragons (mostly), they worship omnipresent forces that shape reality. The question is HOW Ourelonastrix went from being an epic dragon to a divine force, and if someone else could… which is, again, the basis of the draconic religion of Thir.

  7. Thanks for your answers. Out of curiosity: suppose that the faithful of the Flame, the citizens of a nation or a group manage to rein in their aggressive impulses and follow a pacifist movement as Gandhi in our world. Would not the Overlord of war be severely weakened? For me Eberron PCs are heroic too, but such feats are true and perhaps greter heroism. Do you think that would render such overlord weak, put him in slumber, or else? I agree that a good entity respects free will, but could also come to the rescue when mortals face tremendous risk. As to another reader’s idea on the Flame making the bound evil being good, I like it a lot: it’s the reverse of thr shadow in the flame. And what if Khyber’s victory over Syberis is just an illusion and shows, as you said, that violence cannot beget life but the sacrifice of an innocent can? Maybe Syberis’s death foretold the Silver Flame? Thanks! By the way, I love your ideas and thank you for sharing them, so any minor disagreement just shows how much I love Eberron 🙂

    • Out of curiosity: suppose that the faithful of the Flame, the citizens of a nation or a group manage to rein in their aggressive impulses and follow a pacifist movement as Gandhi in our world. Would not the Overlord of war be severely weakened? Do you think that would render such overlord weak, put him in slumber, or else?

      Remember that Rak Tulkhesh has existed since long before human civilization. He grows stronger in times of conflict – the Last War, the Lycanthropic Purge, Karrn’s Conquest. He is weaker when people resist these impulses and pursue peace. The issue is that the stronger he gets, the easier it is for him to drive people TO fight. So it’s a snowball effect: if Mordakhesh gets a conflict going in a region affected by Mordakhesh, the conflict will likely escalate. But if people consciously pursue peace, that holds him in check.

      By the way, I love your ideas and thank you for sharing them, so any minor disagreement just shows how much I love Eberron.

      Of course! The whole point of Eberron is that it’s your world too. *I* might not pursue the Overlord-converted-by-the-Silver-Flame idea, but it’s an interesting idea and I’d be interested to hear about a campaign where someone uses this. I have strong opinions, but don’t worry about disagreeing with them!

      • And what about what philosophers call “just war” e.g. Self-defence. Would it empower an overlord, or only -as I think- aggressive conflicts or those in which atrocities as torture or attacks against civilians are committed no matter the justification?

        • Perhaps “just war” is embodied by the tenets of Dol Arrah and Dol Dorn and so they prevent it from empowering an overlord if no abuses are perpetrated?

          • Would Rak Tulkhesh be empowered by what philosophers call “just war” e.g. Self-defence. Would it empower an overlord, or only -as I think- aggressive conflicts or those in which atrocities as torture or attacks against civilians are committed no matter the justification?

            Rak Tulkhesh doesn’t care about goals. He doesn’t care about the overall cause: what you’re fighting for, what you’re trying to accomplish, what you do or don’t do to civilians. He cares about whether you HATE the person you are fighting, whether you hunger for vengeance, whether you yearn to hurt your opponents. He doesn’t care about Queen Aurala’s justification for war; he cares about what’s in the heart of the individual soldier when he drives his spear into the chest of an enemy. The EOE article says “He draws strength from every blow struck in anger, and his will drives the peaceful to hate. He is Rak Tulkhesh, the Rage of War.”

            So one of the Shadowsword’s favorite things is to encourage people to start such “just wars”, because once blood is spilled it’s so much easier to fan the flames of hatred. The Lycanthropic Purge is a perfect example of this: the CAUSE was entirely just, but along the way hatred, fear, and the thirst for vengeance turned it into a bloody witch hunt.

            Perhaps “just war” is embodied by the tenets of Dol Arrah and Dol Dorn and so they prevent it from empowering an overlord if no abuses are perpetrated?

            Again, it’s not about the cause or the action: it’s about what’s in the heart of the soldier. If you can fight without feeling hate; if you can truly feel compassion and fight solely for justice, then your actions don’t strengthen Rak Tulkhesh, even if your cause is TERRIBLE. But if you are filled with hatred and bloodlust, the righteousness of your cause is meaningless.

            Beyond that, Dol Arrah encourages just war and the Mockery supports treachery in the pursuit of victory, but Dol Dorn is simply about strength, courage and skill; he doesn’t particularly care if the war is just or not, he’s just about supporting the soldier.

  8. I have used LoD in the last campaign. Main plot was supposed to involve Bel Shalor: PC’s role in the Prophecy was that they had the power to either free him or imprison him forever… that was supposed to happen when Tira fought him, but one of her followers betrayed her and sabotaged the effort for the first time. Anyway, the campaign ended early due to real life matters, but it was supposed to involve looking for a tool that would be able to repair the prison, Melisse Miron being freed from Dreadhold and serving as the new “Keeper of the Flame”, CotSF civil war and an endgame involving massive clusterf… ahem… involving Bel Shalor’s servants wanting to free him, Durostan the Wyrmbreaker trying to absorb his power, SF loyalists (and PCs) trying to imprison Bel Shalor forever, and one PC who was secretly Shadow in the Flame’s cultist who could do….. well, pretty much anything she wanted to, but knowing the player, propably turning herself into a fiend and then trying to steal Bel Shalor’s power.

    There were some disguised fiends (and dragons) manipulating the party into fulfilling their vision of the Prophecy, the cultist character knowing way more about what was happening in the background than the rest of the group and doing some sneaky evil-ish stuff behind their back, and the good characters learning about their role in the Prophecy and dealing with their personal problems (the paladin did something incredibly stupid which cost her her hand, granted her an aberrant dragonmark (just as prophecied, also as a bonus feat to compensate the loss of her hand) AND sort of started the main conflict of the CURRENT campaign). Also, lot of sidequests, one of which involved another Overlord, Rak Tulkhesh.

    That was the biggest interaction with LoD in the campaign. Biggest shard of Rak Tulkhesh’s prison is buried under Thaliost, one of the reasons why things are so bad there. Violence of the Last War empowered him, which led to his increased influence in the area around his prison, which led to more influence. A Chamber agent tasked with monitoring Rak Tulkhesh decided that it would be safer to excavate the shard and transport it somewhere safer. Disguised as one of archbishop Dariznu’s advisors, she started secret excavation efforts to retrieve the shard. However, another of Dariznu’s advisors was fiendish servant of Rak Tulkhesh, who wanted the shard excavated, but had a different plan afterwards. He was helpful for the actual excavation efforts, but secretly supported riots and escalation of violence in Thaliost.

    When the dragon’s workers digged to the prison complex, they wen’t mad and killed each other in a fit of rage. That was a problem, however, the dragon’s allies managed to retrieve Karrnathi weapon: a zombie virus and an eldritch machine used to control them. Zombies were immune to Rak Tulkhesh’s influence, but the fiend’s agent sabotaged the device and spread the zombie plague through the city. Thaliost was in quarantine, zombies were rising, and various groups were increasingly hostile and violent to each other. And just to make things more interesting, fiend’s ally slaughtered gnomes in House Sivis message station and make sure rest of the world won’t discover what’s going on. That’s when Flamekeep authorities sent the PC’s in to discover what is Dariznu doing, and why Thaliost cut all communication.

    The characters had to discover what’s going on, who’s the hidden fiend (they originally suspected the dragon, because she was behaving strangely and had something to do with the original spread of the zombie plague), try to keep various factions of Thaliost (Thrane and Aundair nationalists, Dariznu’s soldiers, zombies and Rak Tulkhesh’s cultists) from killing each other, find a cure for the plague (with a help from Karrnathi special operations team sent to recover the weapon and erase any signs of Karrnathi involvement) and finaly retrieve the shard and get it somewhere it won’t threaten anyone, as the dragon and fiend killed each other in off-screen confrontation when they reached the prison. Oh, and the Karrnathi were building eldritch machine to nuke the whole city, because they feared it was the only way to be sure, but the characters convinced them it won’t be necessary.

  9. As usual, I love flashbacks: they remind me of ideas I had for adventures or campaigns I never used for some reason. All this talk about the Lords of Dust will help me a lot converting MtG’s Zendikar storyline in a very nice campaign set in Xen’drik 😀

  10. Have you ever used Vestiges (Tome of Magic) in Eberron? That step between dead, immortal, and divine?

    In his quest to supplant Aureon, did Dorius ir’Korran come close to his goal, only to fall short of divinity? Or was his goal an impossible task from the off?

    Could a binder draw upon the power and influence of a bound Overlord, with the named 17 substituting or adding onto the vestiges presented in Tome of Magic?

    Slightly off of the Overlords, but do the inhabitants of the other planes pay homage to the progenitor wyrms? Do the natives of Fernia depict Khyber, Eberron and Siberys as flame-shrouded draconic forces? Or as efreeti/salamander creator gods? Does the dragon motif carry throughout the planes, or only at home where the dragons of Eberron shaped the myths?

    • Have you ever used Vestiges (Tome of Magic) in Eberron? That step between dead, immortal, and divine?

      Sure. Here’s a quote about this I wrote a few years back.

      Personally, I say that Vestiges are immortal entities that linger in Dal Quor. Not exactly gods, they are beings who have become legends, and their spirits draw power and sustenance from that. I’ve called out titans of Xen’drik (specifically the Emperor Cul’Sir) and ancient dragons as possible Vestiges. It’s entirely possible the Daughters of Sora Kell are trying to become Vestiges, or that Sora Kell is one.

      In his quest to supplant Aureon, did Dorius ir’Korran come close to his goal, only to fall short of divinity? Or was his goal an impossible task from the off?

      It’s not established in canon, and I’d say it’s really a question each DM needs to answer themselves, based on how they want to interpret the Sovereigns. In MY Eberron, I believe that it is possible – that if the dragons ascended to a divine state, it is POSSIBLE for someone else to do it. With that said, in my Eberron the Sovereigns exist as truly transcendental and abstract entities. They don’t manifest physically because they are truly beyond that; they have become part if the infrastructure of reality. So it might be possible for a PC to do this, but in a sense, it would be similar to death – once you transcend, you’re not playing a direct role in things any more.

      Could a binder draw upon the power and influence of a bound Overlord, with the named 17 substituting or adding onto the vestiges presented in Tome of Magic?

      It’s a valid approach, but as noted above, I’ve gone a different way with vestiges.

      Slightly off of the Overlords, but do the inhabitants of the other planes pay homage to the progenitor wyrms? Do the natives of Fernia depict Khyber, Eberron and Siberys as flame-shrouded draconic forces? Or as efreeti/salamander creator gods? Does the dragon motif carry throughout the planes, or only at home where the dragons of Eberron shaped the myths?

      Tied to the discussion above, I do think that the myth of the Progenitors is universal. However, it makes sense to me that the personification of them as DRAGONS is something tied to Eberron, ultimately started by the dragons themselves. I think the beings of the outer planes either revere them as abstract entities or personify them in a way that makes sense within their paradigm.

  11. How much do the silver flame church knows about the Lord of dust and the Overlords? Do they know the organization, the names of the Overlords, that every demon is immortal, that every overlord can be set free following the path of the prophecy?

    • It’s a big question and I’ve given a quick answer at the end of the main post, but I will probably want to expand on this when I have more time.

      • Man Keith, if that’s your quick answer, I want to see your long one! You are awesome for taking the time to answer all of these!

          • Related to this topic: When groups like the Ghaash’kala perform rituals that ward off fiends, is it primarily a matter of faith (since belief grants divine magic) or a matter of them channeling the Silver Flame (since the Flame is tied to the Overlords)?

            I remember reading that they brand themselves with the symbol of Kalok Shash in order to prevent possession, but would a Shulassakar or a sage of the CotSF recognize these brands as symbols of the Flame? Would they look anything like the arrowhead symbol used by the church?

          • When groups like the Ghaash’kala perform rituals that ward off fiends, is it primarily a matter of faith (since belief grants divine magic) or a matter of them channeling the Silver Flame (since the Flame is tied to the Overlords)?

            This ties back to the previous discussion of divine magic. Their faith is what allows them to channel the power of the Silver Flame.

            Ghaash’kala symbology resembles flames, but I don’t think we’ve suggested an arrowhead design for them. However, I’d say that ANYONE who could make a decent religion check would recognize similarities in both the style of rituals and the visual/audible manifestations of their magic to other divine casters tied to the Silver Flame (Shulassakar, CotSF). They aren’t identical, but again, stylistically similar. In my opinion, this is also a good way to introduce new clerical spells that are added in new sourcebooks – hey, the Ghaash’kala have never channeled the Flame to produce (spell X), but they’ve got a line of prayers that produce (spells Y and Z) – maybe you can try that, Templar!

  12. Thanks. This shade of ignorance gives a touch of horror to the Lord of Dust campaign. Very beautiful and exhausting.
    Btw you open with your answer to a little question: What if draal khatuur was set free? Would she be content with live in the ice of her inhabitated frosthell or would she actively seek to frost, kill and make human lifes miserable? And in the first case, would the silver flame care of what’s going on in that far region?

    • What if draal khatuur was set free? Would she be content with live in the ice of her inhabitated frosthell or would she actively seek to frost, kill and make human lifes miserable? And in the first case, would the silver flame care of what’s going on in that far region?

      To answer the second question first: It is possible that the release of an Overlord could go entirely undetected. The main ways to justify it being detected would be if a couatl showed up to warn of a disruption of the Silver Flame, or if a Chamber agent tracking that particular path of the Prophecy arrived to explain it. Barring either of those two things, it’s entirely possible that Dral Khatuur could be released in the Frostfell without anyone knowing.

      Would she be content to sit there? She might for a while. She’s been bound for tens of thousands of years, so she could easily spend a year building her power before doing more. But she’s specifically called out as wanting vengeance against the world as payment for her long imprisonment, and sitting in the Frostfell wouldn’t give her that. So, sooner or later she’d pick a more populous continent and travel there.

      Given that: If the Church of the Silver Flame learned she was active in the Frostfell, would they care?

      I think they would, but the issue is what could they do about it? The whole point of an Overlord is that physical force alone CANNOT DEFEAT IT. Sending an army to the Frostfell to face her would be a pointless exercise that would simply result in a lot of dead Templars. So instead they’d scramble to find a way to rebind her… which is where this becomes a story about PCs instead of about random Church NPCs. If a PC is tied to the Silver Flame, they might be visited by a couatl as Tira Miron was, and told that it is their destiny to face Dral Khatuur. Or they might be tasked to investigate the legends of Dral Khatuur and the nysteries of the Prophecy – urged to find some way she can be stopped before she comes to Khorvaire.

  13. One of the horrific themes of Lovecraft’s fiction is that many of his horrible monsters like Yithians and Elder Things aren’t from some other dimension, but are born of Earth itself. We know that Xoriat borrows on Lovecraftian themes very heavily, but if we wanted to include Elder Things in Eberron and retain the horror of abberations that predate humanity, do you think that Khyber would be the logical connection point? I’d actually see the Elder Things in such a scenario being similar to the Night Hags, but also being vehimently opposed to the Lords of the Dust, but that is just me.

    • This is the approach I’ve advocated for the Aboleths: a native race of aberrations that date back to the Age of Demons. Per Lords of Madness the Aboleths are tied to “Elder Evils”, and I’ve suggested that in Eberron, these would be Overlords. But for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above, this doesn’t mean that the Aboleths would be allies of the Lords of Dust.

      One weird possibility would be to have an Aboleth realm deep beneath the sea that is home to an Overlord who never fought in the Age of Demons and thus was never bound; it has always remained in the depths with no interest in the surface world, and as a result, its existence has gone completely unnoticed… until it decides to rise and play a role in your campaign, of course!

      • I loooove the idea of the aboleths in service to an unbound Overlord. You’re awesome for giving us these, Keith! Thanks!

        Incidentally, I think an “inactive” Overlord totally fits the aboleth. If we accept their ability to access the memories of all of their ancestors, the aboleth are becoming more deadly with every generation. An Overlord who would give birth to a race such as that is definitely playing the long game.

  14. Reposting from Facebook:

    After the Coautls sacrificed themselves and bound the Overlords, the remaining fiends retreated to the Demon Wastes. They plot from the ruins there. Are the cities and temples there ruins because of time, or did the dragons assault the Demon Wastes after they grew in power? Given the magic that they brought to bear against Xen’drik, and the fact that (some) dragons study the prophecy to combat (offensively and defensively) the Lords of Dust, have the dragons ever laid waste to the Demon Wastes throughout the history of Eberron?

    Did the Silver Flame only bind the Overlords, or were many other lesser fiends caught up in it’s power as well? It’s my impression that the Night Hags made it out of the Age of Demons relatively unscathed, is that the case? And do they have their own imperative or are they also interested in releasing the Overlords?

    Do you see the Lords of Dust having an advantage over the Chamber in reading the prophecy because they are immortal and have more time, or could the rakshasas be hindered in their efforts because of limited perspective? Maybe both?

    Has there been a rakshasa artificer mentioned anywhere? Someone that has, over the many thousands of years, been equipping the Lords of Dust and their innumerable pawns with fiendish items? I wonder if Eberron’s take on low level magic and items applies to the fiends as well, especially given their natural talents with magic.

    I think that’s all for now. Thanks Keith! Best setting ever :).

  15. 1) Do anybody in other planes care of overlords? They are so powerful that could easily access to dimensional travel and change things there.
    2) is there any reason for you choosing to have “more or less 30 overlords” instead of canonic number of 12+1 (bel shalor maybe)?

    • Does anyone in other planes care about Overlords? They’re so powerful that they could easily access dimensional travel and change things there.

      Their vast power is precisely why they CAN’T access dimensional travel. The most powerful spirits of planes are tightly bound to their planes; they are literally a PART of that plane, and they can’t separate from it. This is why the Quori can come to Eberron, but il-Lashtavar can’t… and why we have pointed out that the Daelkyr aren’t the most powerful spirits of Xoriat, but simply the most powerful entities that have come from Xoriat.

      Is there any reason for you choosing to have “more or less 30 overlords” instead of canonic number of 12+1 (bel shalor maybe)?

      Because we concretely didn’t want to have a completely list of Overlords. From the outset, we wanted to leave room for individual DMs to add Overlords to fit the needs of the story… and for us to have room to do the same. This ties to the fact that the Overlords’ powers are limited in scope. Which means that when I wrote an article exploring Q’barra in more depth, I could add a new Overlord – Masvirik, the Cold Sun – without contradicting previous material or having to force an existing Overlord into a slot that doesn’t really fit.

  16. It has been mentioned that in Eberron, Lolth could be one of the Overlords, like Tiamat. What about other famous villains from other settings, such as the other demon lords (Orcus, Demogorgorn, etc), maybe Vecna, or even the Tarrasque? If you wanted to use them, would you cast them as other Overlords, or servants equivalent to rakshasas, or maybe just powerful fiends on par with the Daelkyr?

    • Overlords are always an option. But consider that an Overlord has the equivalent of divine rank – is that the power level you’re looking for? I wrote a piece about using Demogorgon in Eberron a while back for the Savage Tide adventure path, and I’ve posted that at the end of the main post.

      • As Elad named the Tarrasque, I say that it has the name Lamannia on it. Alternatively it could be some dormant beast under xen’drik coming from the age of giants. I don’t see it easily as a son of Khyber or anything that could be easily fit in khorvarie

        • The Tarrasque could easily be the end result of the Emerald Claw’s Project Leviathan (Five Nations), though I’d say that their control over it is tenuous; they just managed to wake it up, not fully bind it.

          • Fun Fact: The Tarrasque is actually mentioned in Secrets of Xen’drik, p.7: “A massive monster slumbers beneath the Iceflow Sea. For over forty thousand years, it has lain in torpor, imprisoned by the giant wizards of the Sul’at League. One careless word is all it would take for an adventurer to shatter the wards and release the tarrasque upon an unsuspecting world.”

            Although I’ve also played with the possibility to use it for Operation Leviathan, though my players never visited that area or interacted with BoV/Emerald Claw much.

  17. To me, as a DM, the Lords of Dust represents a opportunity to remind the players that eventhough they just got an additional +1 on their sword – there are still bigger fish out there. On the other hand the LoD represents something I dislike: the Prophesy. A railroading of my players storyline. As a player i´ve always felt that “you are the chosen one” has made me distance myself from the narrative.

    BUT in this blog article on LoD you describe a real merit in Eberron. In this setting, the heroes are not the chosen, but they are the ones that choose. For good or worse – they have true power over the story. I´ve never given this much thought, but reading this article made me realise that this is actually one of the things i hold dearly both as a DM and PC.

    BUT AGAIN…If there isn´t anything embodying “the cuteness of kittens”, what do the agels of syrania represent? how can they be immortal if they aren´t virtue-made-flesh? are they forces of good, but just dont have a unifying organisation/superior entity?

    • BUT AGAIN…If there isn´t anything embodying “the cuteness of kittens”, what do the angels of syrania represent?

      My point was that there’s no immortal force native to Eberron embodying such things; the incarnate immortals of Eberron were the Couatl. The Celestials of Syrania, Shavarath, Irian, etc are immortal incarnations of positive ideas.

  18. I have been running a heavily modified version of Red Hand of Doom for a little over a year; among the many modifications is setting it in Marguul Pass about two millennia before 0 YK, such that the only humans in the Vale are within two generations of the original human immigrants, and those immigrants are within three generations of people who lived on Sarlona. This is getting kind of rambly and tangential so I just wanted to thank you for making a setting with so rich a history, that makes numerous and immortal the forces of evil but uncountable the forces of life, that treats “monsters” as people and subverts a lot of typical fantasy tropes. Eberron has been a great inspiration for telling my own stories, and without tales of Dhakaan in my imagination I don’t think I would have a party that’s 1/3 goblinoid and only 1/6 human.

    Anyway! You asked to hear about use of Lords of Dust; I am not using the LoD themselves but I AM adding a bound Overlord to the mix in this campaign I turned an NPC lich (who in the original module was some human cannibal dude with a necromancy artifact that helps him make ghosts) into a orcish Gatekeeper who was exiled due to extending her life with Forbidden Tooth Surgery. Her circle had recently (c. -5500 YK?) discovered an Overlord’s tomb and determined that having no outlet for her bound power meant that the Overlord was gradually fraying the bounds of her prison, so the druid decided to spend her exile providing a slight release in whatever way she could. Fast forward a couple millennia, and she has become a lich and personally scoured the land of gross vegetation for a dozen miles in every direction from the site of binding. It is a scenario that feels very Eberronian to me – a decent person makes a sacrifice to protect what they hold dear, keeping an Overlord bound while at the same time becoming her only known mortal instrument.

    So yeah thanks for reading this far; hopefully it was worth the investment of time ^_^

  19. Sorry to bother you again, Keith.

    In your article “Eternal Evil: The Lords of Dust” you said that fiends native to Eberron (like rakshasas) can’t gain class levels or extra racial HD on their own, and they need to use artifacts or powerful rituals…
    But, is that true for fiends from other planes too, like Korliac and Thelestes? Are they unable to advance without external magical help too? What about other Outsiders, like Genies and Celestials?
    Also, are all Outsiders (native outsiders, fiends, angels, archons, genies, formians, justicators, arcadian avengers…etc.) unable to breed and to die, or only some kinds?

    Thank you.

    • Are all Outsiders unable to breed and to die, or only some kinds?

      In Eberron, immortal outsiders are physical embodiments of concepts. They are manifestations of the core idea of the plane that spawned them. The immortals of Shavarath represent various aspects of war; the angels of Syrania embody more peaceful concepts. They are truly immortal and are unaffected by the ravages of time. They were not born in the conventional sense and they do not reproduce as other creatures do; since they ARE immortal, if they could reproduce, they’d end up filling the universe. Instead, they operate under a principle of conservation of energy. A plane supports X number of immortals of a certain type. If you eliminate an archon in Shavarath, the energy that forms it will eventually reform as another archon. Powerful spirits – such as the Overlords of Eberron – come back exactly as they were before, in the exact same form and with memories intact. Lesser spirits may come back as a spirit of the same type, but with a new identity. Thus, the only way to permanently reduce the number of active immortals is to bind them in some way.

      This is the rule for immortals. However, not all outsiders are immortal. Looking to Thelanis, the bulk of the Eladrin are long-lived but still mortal, and they reproduce and die like most creatures. The Ghaele Eladrin are Eladrin that embody greater ideas, and as a result they live far longer than others of their kind… but they are still mortal and can die or be killed, in which case their power passes to a lesser Eladrin and elevates it. The Ghaele can have children, but the children don’t inherit their powers.

      In your article “Eternal Evil: The Lords of Dust” you said that fiends native to Eberron (like rakshasas) can’t gain class levels or extra racial HD on their own, and they need to use artifacts or powerful rituals… But, is that true for fiends from other planes too, like Korliac and Thelestes? Are they unable to advance without external magical help too? What about other Outsiders, like Genies and Celestials?

      Again, the idea of immortals is that they are embodiments of aspects of their plane. An archon of Shavarath is an incarnation of war, and it came into existence with a flaming sword in its hand and the knowledge of how to use it; it wasn’t born as a little cherub and taught by a kindly older archon. Hektula, the Bloody Scribe of Ashtakala, has been doing her job for a hundred thousand years; if the passage of time enabled her to improve her skills, the time that she’s already existed is so great as to make the scope of time measured by your campaign insignificant. So the idea is that immortals don’t learn by doing as mortals do. Instead, for an immortal to increase its power it has to do something more significant. It might take actions that cause it to evolve, embodying a new concept with greater power. It might acquire an artifact or absorb another spirit. So Korliac may learn new things about the principles of magic, but for his power to noticeably increase, he’d need to tap into some entirely new source of dimensional energy or something like that. Essential, time means nothing to an immortal and time alone isn’t enough to grant them power; there has to be a greater story to justify a change.

      What about native outsiders, fiends, angels, archons, genies, formians, justicators, arcadian avengers… etc.

      If it hasn’t been defined, it’s up to you to decide. The basic rule is that if a creature is truly immortal – so angels, archons, fiends – they embody ideas and thus don’t learn, breed, or die. But look to my Ghaele Eladrin example above as another possibility, where a mortal Eladrin assumes the mantel of the Ghaele, and is immortal UNTIL it dies, at which point that mantle passes to another. I could see a similar approach to Formians; the Queen may be an immortal while the workers are mortal, and should the queen somehow be destroyed a new queen will be born and spawn a new mortal hive.

      But the short form is that no rule is absolute. Do what makes the best story.

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