Exploring Eberron: The Thunder Sea

Art by Vincentius Matthew

Since Eberron began, I’ve wanted to explore aquatic civilizations. Merfolk, sahuagin, locathah—these creatures are just as intelligent (or more so) than humans. So what are their civilizations like? How do they interact with one another, and with the world above? With that said, there’s more land below the water than there is above, and no reason to think its cultures aren’t just as diverse as those of the surface dwellers. Dealing with every aquatic nation of Eberron would be a book in itself. So in Exploring Eberron I focus on the Thunder Sea, which lies between Khorvaire. Aerenal, and Xen’drik. Sharn and Stormreach are two of the ports adventurers are most likely to deal with; this explores the sea that lies between them and what you can find below it.

These two pages provide an overview of the chapter, and I’m not going to expand on it in depth here because the book itself will do that soon. But I can say that these two pages are literally the tip of the iceberg. The Eternal Dominion, the merfolk of Karakala, the Valraen Protectorate, the mysterious kar’lassa—all of these are dealt with in this section, and each provides a host of interesting hooks for adventures or adventurers.

The raw text of Exploring Eberron is complete, but I’m not going to predict a release date until layout is complete. The final text is still going through editing, and with a book of this size layout and review will take time. So we haven’t crossed the ocean yet, but we can see land on the horizon!

43 thoughts on “Exploring Eberron: The Thunder Sea

  1. Loving the talk about trade routes and how they work! Very much in my area of interest there. I know Exploring Eberron will focus on the Thunder Sea so I’ll avoid asking questions which might be answered there, but on the subject of undersea civilizations:

    You’ve noted there are differences between the merfolk of the Barren Sea and the Sea of Rage before, are merfolk in general different by region? Is this difference physical or cultural or both?

    Could Stormwrack’s darfellan (orca-men) and their being on the brink of extinction from war with the Sahuagin factor into Eberron and Thunder Sea politics, or is it one weird race too many? Would they be better suited as Daelkyr influenced (like medusae and goliaths) or fiendish in origin (like gnolls, aboleths and minotaurs)?

    • You’ve noted there are differences between the merfolk of the Barren Sea and the Sea of Rage before, are merfolk in general different by region? Is this difference physical or cultural or both?

      The merfolk of the Lhazaar Sea are as different from the merfolk of the Thunder Sea as the humans of the Lhazaar Principalities are from those from Riedra. They’re entirely different cultures, beginning in different ways and shaped by diverse environments and contact with other cultures. And I think that there are a number of different strains of merfolk, reflecting adaptating to tropical waters, arctic waters, etc. However, just as Khorvaire has diverse ethnicities among its human population, merfolk can also have diversity; nothing’s stopping merfolk from the Sea of Rage from making their way to the Lhazaar Sea and settling with the locals.

      Could Stormwrack’s darfellan (orca-men) and their being on the brink of extinction from war with the Sahuagin factor into Eberron and Thunder Sea politics, or is it one weird race too many?

      No, I wouldn’t add the darfellan to the Thunder Sea. There’s ten seas in Eberron, and there’s sahuagin in more than one of them. Even if you want to keep the idea of the Darfellan-Sahaugin conflict, it adds very little to the story of the Eternal Dominion; the Dominion already has subject races, what’s interesting about adding one more? I’d put it in a different sea, where the conflict can be a more significant part of the local story.

      Would they be better suited as Daelkyr influenced (like medusae and goliaths) or fiendish in origin (like gnolls, aboleths and minotaurs)?

      I’m not sure they need to be either. Sahuagin aren’t tied to daelkyr or fiends. If I DID add a daelkyr or overlord connection, I’d want to call it out in their culture or psychology. And given that the overlords and daelkyr are both typically regional in their effects, I’d want to add a new overlord or daelkyr associated with them, not simply tie them to Rak Tulkhesh or the Wild Heart.

      • Thank you! I’ve always been interested in the merfolk-sahuagin-locathah interactions, and in aboleths, and look forward to reading about the Eternal Dominion in Exploring Eberron!

        I ask about the Darfellan because a player of mine asked how they fit in and I looked it up. Player’s Guide to Eberron puts them in the Bitter Sea but I also know that book puts everything it can into Eberron. Reading their racial society and religion gave me a weird “cults of the Dragon Below” sort of vibe much like the goliaths, and with the sahuagin fighting the aboleths in the Age of Demons I wondered if they might represent an ongoing “humanoid race” like the gnolls that bears the effects of that transformation.

        I’ll take what you’ve said back to my player, thank you!

        • I always err on the side of using fewer races but trying to give those I do use significant roles. So rather than just dropping them on top of the locathah in the Thunder Sea, I’d rather give them a major role in another sea.

          Regarding overlords and the like guess my question is what story the player WANTS the race to have. If they were created by Eberron, then they are natural creatures; they BELONG in the ocean, and they have a place in the environment. If they were created by the daelkyr, they fundamentally DON’T belong; they are a corruption of nature and should clash with their environment. Do they have a bond with orcas, or are they a twisted corruption of orcas? Looking to the overlords, the overlords create species either as weapons or to embody their core principles. The point of the demonic heritage of the gnolls is that there’s a spark within them urging them to war and primal savagery… and the story of the Znir is that they refuse to submit to it. Do the Darfellan have a similar set of demonic instincts? If so, do they resist them or embrace them?

          Again, the alternative is that they are creations of Eberron—that they BELONG in the ocean and were part of the primal plan. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

  2. A common theme in fantasy is that underwater civilizations are hidden, purposely not in contact with the land-dwellers above. Are you planning to have these cultures interacting a lot with the other cultures of Eberron? Do they have embassies in the Five Kingdoms? Trade with Aerenal? Are they in contact with Riedra etc…?

    • All of these subjects are addressed in the chapter; if you read the preview, a number of these points are specifically addressed in the third paragraph. Your question about Aerenal is referenced in the third paragraph below “The Thunder Sea.”

      Do they interact a LOT? It depends on your definition. Trade with the aquatic nations is something that’s ALWAYS been a part of Eberron; we just haven’t discussed it in detail. City of Stormreach notes that captains who sail across the Thunder Sea need to negotiate with the sahuagin. This doesn’t change that; it just goes into more detail about it, and discusses what is actually going on below the surface.

      • I’m not able to get these preview images to expand on my phone alas so they’re a bit hard to read, but are beautiful and tantalizing nevertheless. Eager for the book.

  3. Looking over the preview I noticed that the merfolk seem very benevolent in guarding the Manifest Zones. I also noticed that the Sahuagin don’t claim territory too close to land, even though they could, given their partially amphibious physiology. Is there a reason they don’t lay claim to land areas? Do they place restrictions on fishing practices? What advantage does the Eternal Dominion gain by allowing sailing vessels across their domain? And why are the merfolk guarding manifest zones? Do they get anything out of it? Feel free to tell me to wait and see.

    • Regarding the merfolk, “wait and see.”

      Regarding the sahuagin, there’s a few factors. They’re only partially amphibious, so trying to maintain a permanent settlement on land is a lot of effort for no real gain. They have no shortage of space or resources; so why SHOULD they want to create settlements on the surface? And it’s not that they don’t claim territory close to land, it’s that Galifar NEGOTIATED the rights to territorial waters, in part by agreeing to respect the borders the Dominion established. By recognizing those territorial waters they allow the dryskins a valid path that doesn’t encroach on the territory they care about. Ditto for fishing. They place vast restrictions on fishing practices; they allow fishing within 20 miles of shore, and utterly forbid it beyond that.

      As for what advantage they gain, they charge every ship that crosses their territory (and they only allow travel on approved paths). So essentially, they’ve constructed a series of toll roads, and if you want to cross you pay the toll. That toll IS the advantage; if they forbade travel entirely, they would lose that revenue, and for what? As long as the dryskins stick to the approved trade routes, they don’t pose a threat. And if they deviate from those routes, their cargo will be confiscated and their ships may be sunk.

      • What kind of payment are the sahuagin interested in? I dont really picture them wanting foodstuff or building material.
        I could imagine eberron dragonshards being a scarcety in the ocean, but is there something else they lack?

        • Metal, worked metal weapons and armour especially, if I recall previous answers to that question correctly. No forge under the sea

  4. This isn’t really related to the Merfolk, Sahuagin and underwater material presented here (which looks super cool, and I’m excited to see! Especially if we’re gonna see some big, big, big monsters from the deep), but I wanted to ask- is there going to be any mention or exploration in Exploring Eberron of Avassh, Twister of Roots? I know you’re going into more detail on the Daelkyr, and I was curious- I’ve planned to use Avassh’s influence as the main threat of a dungeon crawl into Yarkuun Draal soon (which the Dhakaani sections of Exploring Eberron should help nicely with), and noticed there’s pretty much no lore on it anywhere- I assume it’s a newer creation.

    Anyway, thanks for all the work you’re putting into EE, looking forward to reading through it whenever it comes out (hopefully before I get around to doing that big dungeon crawl)

    • I do deal with a new daelkyr in this book, but not Avassh (who yes, I first named in Rising). So I’m afraid there’s still a lore void there.

      • Ah well
        I guess I’ll have to make up my own little Daelkyr for now

        Though with any luck, we can at least get an article on the topic someday?
        Plant monsters are woefully unexplored in most D&D supplements at the moment, and I would love to hear some Eberron lore on them

        • Though with any luck, we can at least get an article on the topic someday?

          I can certainly add the topic to my next Patreon poll and see if there’s interest!

  5. This is one of the chapters I’m looking most forward to (which is kind of ironic, because I happen to have an acute case of depthphobia and would probably kill myself before facing this ‘Lurker in Shadow’. But I’ve always loved the animals and reefs.)

    So if I may ask, why did you make aboleths creations of the demons and not Xoriat? Wait, let me guess: it’s because the Daelkyr invasion happened much later and you want to keep the aboleth’s angle as an incredibly ancient race from the very dawn of time. Am I right?

    But this makes me think of another question. Xoriat was only knocked out of phase or whatever five thousand years ago. Didn’t it have manifest zones and such before that? Couldn’t other things have come through in those times? What was the world like when that plane had a regular rotaion around Eberron?

    • So if I may ask, why did you make aboleths creations of the demons and not Xoriat? Wait, let me guess: it’s because the Daelkyr invasion happened much later and you want to keep the aboleth’s angle as an incredibly ancient race from the very dawn of time. Am I right?

      You are correct, but it’s not actually a new thing; I proposed this origin for the aboleths way back in 3.5.
      http://archive.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/ebee/20050704a

      As you surmised, the idea of the aboleths was that they are an incredibly ancient race with ties to “elder evils”; in Eberron, that was a logical match to the overlords. Furthermore, part of the nature of the minions of the daelkyr is that their actions and goals are strange an engimatic; as Children of Khyber, the aboleths can pursue a more straightforward goal of corruption and conquest.

      Xoriat was only knocked out of phase or whatever five thousand years ago. Didn’t it have manifest zones and such before that?

      Xoriat has manifest zones NOW. It’s only Dal Quor that doesn’t have manifest zones. Xoriat is just permanently remote. And sure, things likely DID come to Eberron from Xoriat before that; they just didn’t do so in large numbers or with INTENTION. Notably, there were probably a few beholders in Eberron all the way back in the Age of Giants, watching the world and sending information to Belashyrra. But they didn’t have an active agenda.

      • So then, would it make sense to reclassify aboleths as fiends rather than aberrations in Eberron? Aberration as a creature type seems very heavily tied to the Daelkyr.

        • Not all children of Khyber are fiends, and not all aberrations are tied to the daelkyr. The idea of aboleths as children of Khyber was established in third edition. Part of it is the idea that fiends are immortal; aboleths are unnatural, but not immortal.

          • Your answer implies the daelkyr (and other aberrations) may be extremely long-lived, but are still mortal. Is that the case? I don’t remember seeing anything about the life expectancy or possible immortality of the daelkyr before.

          • I think the Daelkyr themselves are probably effectively immortal, but their aberrant servants, however powerful, actually die when they’re killed, as opposed to re-forming in khyber the way even lesser fiends do.

          • Funny thing is, 5e Aboleth *are* immortal: “The aboleths’ fall from power is written in stark clarity on their flawless memories, for aboleths never truly die. If an aboleth’s body is destroyed, its spirit returns to the Elemental Plane of Water, where a new body coalesces for it over days or months.”

            EPoW is not a thing in Eberron, but this does sound similar to fiends…. with the difference that fiends do lose some memories when they die.

  6. Thanks for taking the time to whet our appetite and share the great preview with some epic art!

    More out of curiosity than any real expectation that it will see print, do you have ideas about what might be in the other seas and what their history might look like?

    Also, are there any bodies analogous to the Chamber or the old Giant civs in terms of world-shaping influence? Presumably, the aboleths might have the perspective to wrestle with the Prophecy, and might have more of the world to check for signs.

    Have there been any major historical events that spilled over from sea to land or vice versa?

    • More out of curiosity than any real expectation that it will see print, do you have ideas about what might be in the other seas and what their history might look like?

      Certainly, but that would be a subject for a full article. I’ll add it to a future patreon poll and see if there’s interest. As to the other question, the chapter will discuss the forces that are active in the Thunder Sea and their far reaching plans.

  7. Ship captains traveling between Sharn and Stormreach need to negotiate with those living under the seas. Do airships flying over these places have to do this?

    (I found it interesting that according to City of Towers there explicitly isn’t a regular route at the “start”, but at least four separate things, Voyage of the Golden Dragon, Trust No One, the web article “House Lyrandar Mulls New Airship Routes”, and apparently DDO’s expansion, all add one after the campaign starts.)

    • Ship captains traveling between Sharn and Stormreach need to negotiate with those living under the seas. Do airships flying over these places have to do this?

      This is murky water. The simple fact is that the Dominion likely doesn’t have tools in place to track or target airships… not unlike the difficulties submarines posed to us surface dwellers when they first appeared. They could certainly develop them, but as you note, airship traffic across the Thunder sea is still quite light. So I would expect that Lyrandar doesn’t pay passage fees for airship travel across the Thunder Sea, but that it probably flies over the approved sea routes——so it’s not crossing forbidden territory——and the Dominion hasn’t yet taken any action addressing it.

      • Flying along the permitted routes is probably considered a safety factor, too. In the unlikely (?) event that an airship should go down at sea, it would be more easily found by surface vessels, and possibly to get help from the Dominion, if it’s along the accepted routes.

  8. Is there any map or description of the continental shelves around Khorvaire (or the other continents), and how far out the deep ocean begins? Or where the deep trenches are? On Earth, many of the sub-sea features, especially the deep trenches, are manifestations of plate tectonics. Am I correct in assuming that Eberron has no such processes? Maybe that’s a silly question, since the sub-surface of Eberron is not anything like the crust, mantle and core of Earth.

    • Is there any map or description of the continental shelves around Khorvaire (or the other continents), and how far out the deep ocean begins?

      Not explicitly, no. However, the sahuagin dwell in the deep ocean, and it’s logically one of the reasons the Dominion doesn’t contest the territorial waters around the southern coast of Khorvaire; not only do they have no interest in dwelling on land, they’re happy to let the dryskins have the shelf.

      Or where the deep trenches are?

      As you suggest, given the existence of Khyber it’s reasonable to think that Eberron’s subsurface bears little resemblance to Earth. With that in mind, what’s said is that there ARE deep trenches where the aboleths linger, but the specific locations aren’t called out… so the answer is “Where does your story need them to be?” There’s a lot in the book, and as it is it’s nearly a hundred pages over our original estimated length; so it is more of an overview that leaves it to the DM to add details. I could easily right an entire supplement just about the Thunder Sea, or Thelanis, or Droaam – so there are some sacrifices made.

  9. Hi Keith! As everybody, i can’t wait for the final book 🙂

    1) did sahuagin dream like we do? If yes… are they in riedran agenda?
    2) do anything like Atlantis exist in Eberron? An underwater intact advanced giant city, maybe?
    3) cthulhu?
    4) crossover question: does Zilargo have spies underwater? 🙂

    • 1. This is a complicated question that will be answered in the book.

      2. If you mean “Is there a city that was once above water that sunk and is still inhabited,” No, not in the Thunder Sea (but remember that Eberron has ten seas!). If you mean “Are their advanced cities underwater?” absolutely, the cities of the Eternal Dominion and the Valraean Protectorate. There WERE aquatic giant cities, because storm giants are amphibious, but they were ALWAYS aquatic and most of them were destroyed long ago by the sahuagin or the aboleths.

      3. What about him? I wouldn’t add Cthulhu directly into Eberron, because we’ve already got both overlords and daelkyr in the “Ancient bound evil that will destroy civilization if it rises” category. We also have the kar’lassa, which are new additions to this space, but aren’t quite as straightforward; you’ll learn more about them when the book is released.

      4. No, I don’t think so. But perhaps the question you should be asking is “Does the Eternal Dominion have spies in Zilargo?”

  10. How does the Chamber interact with the aquatic civilizations? More or less like they do with the squshy races on the surface? Do the dragons assert control of the seas around Argonessen, and if so, how far out?

    • I’d like to add something to this line of questions if you don’t mind. Do you picture certain dragons underwater (like the black, bronze, and turtle dragons) or does their level of magic mean you’re just as likely to meet a red down there? Maybe I’m being silly, but reds do get a lot of the attention in this game.

      (Did you ever see Dragon Magazine #345? It had an article about Sea Serpents, aquatic dragons that were more eel than turtle. From the moment I read them, I always pictured those monsters having a place in Argonnessen’s society.)

      • Do you picture certain dragons underwater (like the black, bronze, and turtle dragons) or does their level of magic mean you’re just as likely to meet a red down there?
        For those dragons who live underwater—IE, residents of The Dragonreach—they’re mostly amphibious dragons (green, gold, bronze, black). Other dragons certainly can employ water breathing and similar magic, but there’s not an especially compelling reason for them to do so.

    • How does the Chamber interact with the aquatic civilizations? More or less like they do with the squishy races on the surface?
      More or less. It’s mentioned in the section.

      Do the dragons assert control of the seas around Argonessen, and if so, how far out?
      Certainly! There are dragons who live in the waters around Argonnessen, especially in the Dragonreach, which is why it’s called “The Dragonreach.” But in general, they monitor a fifty mile radius around Argonnessen. It should be noted that this isn’t something they negotiate with other nations, it’s a “cross this line and you probably won’t come back” situation that’s been in place for tens of thousands of years.

  11. Uh a little curiosity: i know that you are now discussing only the Thunder Sea, but do you already have ideas for all of the ten seas, or it will be something you will think about in the future if you’ll have to write about them?

  12. I am using a Wastrilith who has forced its way into a sahaguin enclave. I was gonna have the fiend be from Kythri so where else might this undersea fiend of corruption be from?

    • Actually, this sounds like a perfect creation of the Lurker in Shadow, the overlord who created the aboleths of the Thunder Sea. The Lurker is about corruption, so I’d just make this a local fiend.

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