IFAQ: Galifar – One Nation or Five?

As time allows I like to address shorter questions raised by my Patreon supporters. This one comes from Mariamow: I would love to see a breakdown of the fashion of the nations! Specifically how things were pre-last war mostly all being a single nation, how it evolved and why it evolved in that way.

A full nation-by-nation breakdown of fashions is a significant topic; I’ll put it on the Patreon topic poll for June. However, I wanted to take a moment to address the second half of the question: As pre-war Galifar was a single nation, how and why did the Five Nations evolve as they did?

Galifar wasn’t a single nation: it was a united kingdom. Two thousand years ago, the warlord known as Karrn the Conqueror sought to bring the nations of central Khorvaire under his control and failed. A thousand years later, Galifar I succeeded. But unlike Karrn, he didn’t seek to crush these nations and impose Karrnathi culture onto them. Galifar was a diplomat as well as a warrior, and he achieved victory through compromise. He rallied the Dragonmarked Houses to his side with the Korth Edicts. He gained the support of the goblins with the promise of freedom. And with a notable exception, he won acceptance for his rule by respecting the traditions of his defeated enemies. He appointed his children as governors of the conquered nations, and he did rename the nations after them. His homeland of Karrnath remained unchanged, but the nation of Thaliost became Aundair; Daskara became Thrane; Wroat became Breland; and Metrol became Cyre. But his children took local nobles as their spouses, and for the most part local leaders who swore fealty to Galifar and accepted his laws and edicts were allowed to keep their positions and lands. Rather than crushing the cultures of the nations, he largely embraced them and sought to harness their strengths for the greater good. Notably, each nation was granted one of the major institutions of Galifar—something that built on their existing strengths but which also served as a cultural anchor and point of pride moving forward.

  • Aundair had the strongest system of general education (later used as a model for all of Galifar) and the greatest expertise in wizardry and artifice. The was chosen as the home of the Arcane Congress, Galifar’s center for mystical research and education.
  • Breland became the seat of the King’s Citadel, service both as the strong shield of the ruler and as their eyes and ears. Beyond this, Breland would also evolve into a major center for commerce and industry. All of these were supplemented by its close ties to Zilargo, which remained culturally independent but under the general jurisdiction of Breland.
  • Karrnath had the oldest and strongest martial tradition. Rekkenmark was both the most prestigious military academy in Galifar and the secondary seat of military administration.
  • Thrane was known for its devotion to the Sovereign Host, and was the seat of the Grand Temple of the Host. The temple was devastated during the Year of Blood and Fire; following the sacrifice of Tira Miron, the majority of the people of Thrane converted to the faith of the Silver Flame, and the Grand Temple was replaced by Flamekeep.
  • Cyre was the exception to the rule of maintaining the existing culture. Here Galifar displaced the existing nobility and built a nation that would be a model for the kingdom as a whole—drawing on the cultural strengths of all five nations to and creating something new. This was a source of pride for the new Cyrans, but a bitter pill for the displaced nobles of Metrol (largely granted new lands in what is now Valenar)—and in general, there was a lingering resentment that Cyre’s prosperity was built with the sweat of the other nations.

So people considered themselves to be citizens of Galifar, but they still thought of themselves as Cyrans, Brelish, or Aundairian. The sourcebook Forge of War includes a map of Galifar before the war, and again, it’s not one nation: it’s five.

Galifar was a metropolitan society. Part of the point of spreading its major institutions across the continent is that people would go to Aundair to learn magic or to Karrnath to study war and then return to their homelands. So the nations weren’t isolated, and Cyre in particular strove to draw inspiration from all of the nations. Nonetheless, Karrns were the most likely to serve as soldiers and Aundairians the most likely to become scholars or wizards.

So while the cultures of the Five Nations have deep roots in the pre-Galifar nations, the traits most associated with them today—Aundair’s arcane strength, Thrane’s devotion—developed under Galifar. In the previous article I mentioned that the soldiers of the Five Nations started from a common base for their uniforms, because the ARMY was the army of Galifar; but the soldiers within the army had always thought of themselves as Brelish, Aundairian, etc and when they changed into civilian clothing it would reflect their local culture.

All of which is to say that there’s certainly room for a longer discussion of the cultures and fashions of the Five Nations when I have time to write about them! Until then, in dealing with the Five Nations the key point is to remember that while they have only been independent nations for a century, they Five Nations have traditions and cultural identities that go back far longer than that.

Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for keeping this site going! As determined by the poll on Patreon, the my next major article will concern the moons and the potential for a space race in Eberron.

22 thoughts on “IFAQ: Galifar – One Nation or Five?

  1. I seem to remember the Lhazaar Principalities had limited self-governance as well. Was I off on that? Would it be because they were “on the edge” of the kingdom, or was it that they were too vital a shipping route?

    • I seem to remember the Lhazaar Principalities had limited self-governance as well.

      Certainly: note that they are on the map of Galifar shared in the article. But they were an autonomous tributary, not a part of Galifar: hence, it wasn’t called “The Six Nations.”

  2. Hi Keith!

    In the article, you mention how Galifar brought the Dragonmarked Houses to his side with the Korth Edicts. I was slightly confused by this because canonically, we almost only have examples of how the Korth Edicts RESTRICT the Houses, not expand their power.

    Upon further research it appears that, almost as an aside, it is written that the Korth Edicts ensured the Houses’ continued economic growth and strength – of course, with the restrictive caveats. This is kind of curious, because we have a lot of examples of how the Houses are pushing at or even outright breaking the Korth Edicts, but no examples of how the Houses may have used them to their advantage. Those kinds of stories seem just as interesting (the big corporation muscling out smaller ones), if not more so, especially for a certain viewpoint of the Houses.

    So my question is, How did the Korth Edicts BENEFIT the Houses – what kind of incentives and promises was Galifar able to offer to the Dragonmarked Houses that they did not have codified before his rule?

    • I’ve mentioned this before, because it’s a thing most people ignore. The Korth Edicts were the product of negotiation, and the houses gained assurances in exchange for giving up rights. You may want to check this recent post out. Here’s a critical piece.

      The other big thing people often forget about the Korth Edicts is that they weren’t simply a burden on the houses; they were an opportunity. Essentially, they were a deal with Galifar: If the houses agreed not to challenge him politically (no titles of nobility) or militarily (no land, no armies) he wouldn’t challenge them economically. The houses hold monopolies on a scale that’s illegal in the US today, and under the Edicts they regulate their own industries. So they don’t particularly want to throw out the Edicts, because for House Sivis, the lack of antitrust laws is far more important to their bottom line than being able to have a noble title.

  3. You can’t tell me that Cyre was the one exception to the rule and not say why! I love Cyre.

    What was their pre-galifar culture like? What made Galifar burn them down and not anyone else? Did they refuse to free their goblins? Did they secretly worship overlords? Did they torture a loved one of his and Cyre was his revenge? Tell me!

    • This is discussed at a high level here:
      http://keith-baker.com/dragonmarks-cyre/

      A few quick elements:
      1. Cyre is central, has good land, and good rivers. Galifar was creating a capital for his new kingdom, and it was a good choice.
      2. Metrol — what’s now Cyre — directly borders Karrnath. It had a long and bitter history with Karrnath dating back to Karrn’s failed conquest. It was the first nation Galifar DID conquer, and the one that required the most force. Having made an example of Metrol it was easier for him to negotiate with Daskara and Wroat, and Thaliost may have ultimately agreed to join Galifar with relatively minimal conflict.
      3. This means that Metrol was conquered by force; required the most rebuilding to begin with; and further, that the nobles of Metrol were those Galifar trusted the least. Combine that with the fact that it directly bordered Karrnath. It’s not surprising that it was the nation that he decided to completely transform and restock with his friends in charge, while effectively kicking his former bitter enemies to estates on the other side of the Blade Desert.

  4. Hi Keith! Thanks!

    In the article you say that Galifar brought goblins to his side by abolishing slavery. So it’s 1000 years, more or less, that there are goblins that are free citizens of the five nations… why aren’t they as integrated as elves or dwarves? Also as far as I remember there is no single rich, high status goblin mentioned in any module.

    In Ecs is mentioned that in karrnath and thrane warforged are almost under slavery. This aspect is not deeply explored. Is there any limitation for warforged PCs there? Do they need any proof of being free beings?

    With that said: some elves are citizens of the five nations. Do they go to school the same age of humans? In THIS case, why aren’t elves more skilled than humans when they reach 100 or 200 years?

    Last but not least, you always say that magic is like science in Eberron. There is evolution, some geniuses find new spells and so on. But the concept of modern science in our world is younger than 1000 years. I would wonder what was the level of magic when Galifar unified the five nations. Would you give some examples of magic that already existed and magic that did not?

    Thanks a lot for all the cool work that you are doing

    • These are significant enough topics that they could be articles of their own. I’ll give very brief answers.

      In the article you say that Galifar brought goblins to his side by abolishing slavery. So it’s 1000 years, more or less, that there are goblins that are free citizens of the five nations… why aren’t they as integrated as elves or dwarves?

      All sorts of reasons. Unlike both elves and dwarves, the city goblins have no established nation behind them. Darguun didn’t exist and the precursors of the Ghaal’dar were reclusive and hostile. So they were granted freedom, but they had no property, no nation, no resources. And just because the laws granted them freedom doesn’t mean that the people who had formerly owned goblin slaves would respect that or give them fair opportunities – the same as we’re seeing today with warforged. There’s also the basic principle that when you put a goblin next to an elf, one fits human standards of beauty and the other does not. With that said, we DO have goblins scattered around in “normal” positions; one that immediately comes to mind is the goblin scout who served with Lei and Daine in the Dreaming Dark series (only seen in flashbacks). But it’s still an issue.

      In Ecs is mentioned that in karrnath and thrane warforged are almost under slavery. This aspect is not deeply explored. Is there any limitation for warforged PCs there? Do they need any proof of being free beings?

      What’s generally been discussed is that warforged live in indentured servitude, which means that they have AGREED to the terms of their service; it’s an entirely legal system of contracts, not slavery. The issue is whether the terms of these contracts are truly fair and whether the warforged who signed them understood what they were giving up. This has no impact on a PC warforged unless they choose (or chose) to sign such a contract.

      With that said: some elves are citizens of the five nations. Do they go to school the same age of humans? In THIS case, why aren’t elves more skilled than humans when they reach 100 or 200 years?

      This is discussed in previous articles on the elves. Age doesn’t equate to a perfect progression of skill. Look in our world: are older people always more skilled than younger people? There comes a point when you have reached your potential – and likewise, if you STOP doing something for a few decades (because you’re focusing on other things) you can LOSE some of those skills; I’m not as good a fencer today as I was in college.

      I would wonder what was the level of magic when Galifar unified the five nations. Would you give some examples of magic that already existed and magic that did not?

      This is far too large a topic to address here. But in my opinion, if you went back to the time of Galifar EVERYTHING would be different. Looking to my discussions on armor and crossbows not being medieval—well in GALIFAR’s time, they were definitely medieval. The state of wizardry and artifice was dramatically different. A simple way to look at it is to bump up all spell levels by two, which is to say that in Galifar’s time, magic missile was a 3rd level spell. I could discuss this in far more detail, but that would be a topic for a different article.

      • The simple magic solution you suggest for approximating Galifar era reminds me of d20 Modern requiring level 4+ to take a magic using class, requiring a character already be a solid researcher, good codebreaker, and understanding of arcane lore.

  5. One thing that has remained unclear to me (though I wonder if it may have been covered in a work I have not read) is how the children of the reigning king and queen continued to become governors of the five nations. Did each new generation supplant their brothers and sisters with their own progeny? What happened if the rulers gave birth to fewer than five children? I’m asking mostly to make sense of the situation in 894, and to understand how their system of succession may have differed from what we are used to in traditional systems of nobility.

    • This is addressed in the (relatively) recent Dragonmark about Cyre:

      Following the example of Galifar I, the monarch’s children served as governors of the five provinces. The eldest governed Cyre, and on the death of the monarch, they would take up the crown and their children would take over the governing positions of each province. The prior governors would serve as regents until children were of age, and after that, as advisors. When a monarch lacked five children, the previous governors would maintain the posts. But the principle was simple: Cyre was the heart of Galifar, and all else would shift around it. Over the history of Galifar, there were multiple rebellions and attempted secessions; the Last War was simply the largest and last of them.

  6. Would you say the displaced nobles of Metrol are distinct from the Khunan people in Valenar? How do you see the Metrol nobles fitting in to the politics of Valenar today?

    • It’s the time in which Bel Shalor held sway over the region. It’s first mentioned by that title on the first page of the description of Thrane in Five Nations.

  7. Hoo! the Karrnathi have some reasons to resent Cyre (and vice versa). Both Karrn and Galifar came from Karrnath. The Korth edicts came from their. They’re basically the reason for the united kingdom, but then Galifar moves down to soft rich Cyre and pours resources into that place and appoints his heirs perpetually to rule there etc… very James the 6th becomes James the 1st and can’t ditch Edinburgh for London fast enough.

  8. I’ve always seen Galifar a bit like “meta-culture”, sort of like “western world”, “eastern Europe” that was unified politically under a central government (now, a lot of comparisons to modern politics might be iffy).

    So a guy from Five Nations would expect an impartial judge in a court, might believe that he can choose his religion and view slavery as evil, whether he was a Thrane believer (“you are still welcome to choose distant gods, you should listen to the Flame yourself”), Mror clansman, Eldeen colonist or an elven Brelish activist. But an orc from Shadow Marches, elf from Aerenal or a human from Sarlona has a different set of values, believes his gods to be objectively true, knows that it’s best to bribe a judge and says slavery is a natural order of things.

    Darguun isn’t a member of this culture, but many of its people are, and the remnants have a system of values that isn’t incompatible with the Five Nations. Droaam… in my Eberron, many warlords are effectively “these ideas are decent, but we need to tailor them to our people”. And in my Eberron Zilargo looks like one of the Thronehold nations on the surface… but it is a totalitarian society underneath.

  9. Hi Keith! In the map you posted from Forge of War, significant places such as Arcanix and Passage used to be Thranish. How does this hold? Did the Arcane Congress belong to Aundair even though Arcanix was in Thrane? Why doesn’t Thrane throw a kerfuffle about Passage similarly to how Aundair throws a kerfuffle about Thaliost?

    Thanks for the awesome post 🙂

    • Arcanix is part of the Arcane Congress. Remember that it’s comprised of FLOATING TOWERS. When Aundair claimed the region, they MOVED Arcanix to occupy it, since in addition to being a school, Arcanix is an arcane stronghold.

      Thaliost is a particular sore point if you consider the history—that Thaliost was the original capital city of the region that became Aundair; that ancient nation was CALLED Thaliost. So it’s a particularly stinging point to have it in the hands of an enemy.

      As for Passage, I can only say that I wasn’t involved in Forge of War and don’t agree with all of their decisions. But if you accept it as is, I would personally say that Thrane has largely abandoned Passage — that it evacuated its citizens and chose to let it go — while in the case of Thaliost, the Aundairians refused to abandon it.

  10. I seem to recall Karrnath at Galifar’s height claimed Q’Barra as a province. If true, was this more symbolic like their relationship with Lhazaar, or a matter of an unbacked claim like Breland and Droaam? With its proximity to East Cyre (Valenar) if there were settlements or forts in the Endworld mountains did the old Metrol nobility bristle at this?

    Was Eldeen a terrority of Thaliost coming into Galifar or did they expand into it under Galifar?

    Did Daskara/Thrane ever have problems being the kingdom/nation which didn’t have tributary regions or was that part of what drove their self-sufficiency push at the start of the Last War?

    • I seem to recall Karrnath at Galifar’s height claimed Q’Barra as a province. If true, was this more symbolic like their relationship with Lhazaar, or a matter of an unbacked claim like Breland and Droaam?
      No need to recall it – just look at the map included in the article. But this was ENTIRELY an unbacked claim like Breland and Droaam. “Province” is a generous term; it was more the way that Breland claims the King’s Forest even though they’ve never settled or tamed it. It was considered a wild region with no value, and it wasn’t until Ven ir’Kesslan’s expedition that there was a serious effort made to settle it, which is why the people of the Five Nations know so little about the “scales.” The Cold Sun Federation has never crossed the Endworld Mountains, and the dragonborn have maintained their isolation since the fall of Dhakaan. The presence of dragonshards wasn’t discovered until recently, which is why we have the shard rush NOW instead of centuries ago. So it’s not like there was any REASON for Karrnath to feel that it was worth building and maintaining fortresses in the mountains.

      Was Eldeen a terrority of Thaliost coming into Galifar or did they expand into it under Galifar?
      If by “Eldeen” you mean “The Towering Woods,” No, Thaliost never had a presence in it. And Aundair didn’t “expand into it” even once they claimed it on the map. Like Karrnath and Q’barra, it was a region Aundair claimed the RIGHT to, but never actually occupied, aside from lumber operations and hunting on the edge of it.

      • Thank you!

        What about Thrane’s lack of claimed regions vs the other four nations having those? Did it just not affect them?

  11. Ooh, very much looking forward to the article on Khorvaire’s fashion, if only because I have a very fashion conscious player in my party playing a Changeling Bard, and they’re looking to incorporate fashion and styling into the character a lot (they enjoyed the last article a lot).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.