IFAQ: Dragonshards and Tharashk

When did dragonshards become important as magical fuel? House Tharashk was discovered in 498 YK. The lightning rail went into operation in 811 YK, but Tharashk only stepped up mining in the Shadow Marches & Q’barra in the past decade? What delayed them so long?

There’s two significant questions here: When did dragonshards become important and why did it take Tharashk so long to start major mining operations in Q’barra?

The spells, items, and services available in 998 YK represent the pinnacle of arcane science. Like any form of science, these things didn’t emerge into the world fully formed. The lightning rail of 811 YK was the result of decades of research and development—and it was quite different than the lightning rail of 998 YK. It originally used volatile Fernian ash as its fuel, and both the binding and the conductor stones had flaws.

Eberron dragonshards are found across Eberron. Xen’drik, the Shadow Marches, and Q’barra are especially rich sources of dragonshards, but there are dragonshard deposits across Khorvaire. Eberron dragonshards are an important element in the creation of magic items and in maintaining ongoing magical effects—such as the lightning rail and elemental airships. Eberron shards can be refined into a powdered form that can be used in place of any spell component with a cost.

So: it’s possible to perform most forms of arcane science without dragonshards; it just takes a range of different substance, which are usually more exotic and specific to the effect being produced. However, this uses refined Eberron dragonshard powder (also known as residuum). Raw dragonshards can be used, but unless they are processed and refined it’s inefficient; you’re significantly better off using the other alternative. Because of this, the process of refining dragonshards to create residuum was a crucial breakthrough that had cascading effects across the magical economy. While creating magic items still requires a range of additional rare elements, the universal nature of refined dragonshards allowed Cannith and others to dramatically increase both the range and scale of production. Using processed dragonshards as an energy source made the lightning rail safer and allowed Orien to operate more carriages. But again, this process of refining was a breakthrough that occured less than two centuries ago, and it’s a process that continued to be explored.

So: Eberron Dragonshards have always been a valuable source of magical energy, but it wasn’t until the last two centuries that they became as valuable and universal as they are today. Eberron dragonshards CAN be found across Khorvaire, and initially, that supply was sufficient to meet demands. But within the last century that demand has steadily grown—which has in turn driven people to find richer pools to draw on.

This brings us to House Tharashk. Why are their operations in Q’barra only a decade old? House Tharashk began as a house of hunters, not prospectors. For centuries its primary focus was on inquisitive work and bounty hunting. Prospecting is a relatively new path that arose both with the increased demand for dragonshards mentioned above and crucially with the creation of the prospector’s rod. As with many houses, the base powers of the dragonmark aren’t as important as the focus items that channel that power. As the speaking stone is to House Sivis, the prospector’s rod is to Tharashk: it is this tool that expands the powers of the mark beyond the simple scope of casting locate object and allows prospecting on an industrial scale.

In my Eberron, it’s a mistake to say that prospecting in the SHADOW MARCHES only began ten years ago. Dragonmarked calls out that House Sivis originally came to the Shadow Marches in search of dragonshards, and that the mineral wealth of the Shadow Marches has always been a secondary source of wealth for the house. That effort may have increased over the past decade as the house as a whole has realized that there’s more wealth and influence to be gained from dragonshards than bounty hunting, but it’s been something that has been scaling up over the course of the past century.

Q’barra, on the other hand, IS a new development. The world’s a big place, and Tharashk hasn’t been able to search all of it. Prior to the Last War, Q’barra was a shunned backwater thought filled with hostile scales. The Dragon articles call out that it was only ten years ago that settlers discovered rich deposits of dragonshards in Q’barra. Tharashk responded quickly to this discovery and has ramped up its efforts ever since. But why didn’t they go there earlier? Because they already had a rich source of dragonshards in the Shadow Marches and were still expanding their operations, and because no one knew there were dragonshards in Q’barra. It’s entirely possible that there are other rich deposits in Khorvaire that have yet to be discovered!

Ultimately, the key takeaway here is that the arcane industry in Eberron is just like industry and science in our world. It evolves and expands. The current state of things in 998 YK reflects the latest developments; drop back to 498 YK or 811 YK and the world will be a much different place.

Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for keeping this blog going! I’ll be posting a poll to the inner circle soon to determine the subject of the next article.

25 thoughts on “IFAQ: Dragonshards and Tharashk

  1. So what uses have the aquatic races found for the Siberys shards that fall into the seas?

    Is Tharashk working on bridging those culture gaps to broker dragonshard trade with those cultures?

    • Exploring Eberron will discuss this in more detail. Xen’drik is currently an easier option for unclaimed Siberys shards.

  2. Is Khorvaire particularly robust in Eberron shards or do Xen’drik and Sarlona have large deposits as well?

    • Eberron shards are spread across Eberron. Every continent has dense deposits somewhere. Q’barra is a particularly rich region, however.

      • Secrets of Sarlona states that Eberron shards simply do not form on Sarlona. Does that still hold true or is that a detail that you disagree with?

  3. I might be changing the subject, but I was under the impression that elemental bound vehicles operated more similarly to a battery on a circuit (elemental-bound nightshard on an arcane matrix). If it uses fuel instead, I have a few questions:

    1. Where’s the engine?
    Obviously there is an “elemental coach” that provides the motive force, but is the ring now just the external parts of an interior device?
    2. How exactly does it use residuum?
    Is it placed on the nightshard? Is it put into a box connected to the arcane matrix? Is it fed directly to the released elemental?
    3. Does this interact with the “arcane matrix” at all? Is that still a thing in 5e canon?

    • “Fuel” is metaphorical; it’s not a literal engine. There are rituals that a magewright-engineer performs on a regular basis to maintain and motivate the elemental and to ensure the stability of the arcane matrix. The entire system won’t collapse (usually) if these aren’t maintained, but performance will degrade and the elemental will either escape (rare, worst case) or become dormant (which is safe and how the system is supposed to work). So if you find a crashed airship, for example, it could have a dormant elemental, but it could be woken and restored to operation by an artificer with the proper supplies.

      • So the use of the residuum is a magewright essentially reinforcing the existing arcane matrix and giving the elemental “coffee” to keep it active for longer. That makes more sense to me.

  4. The discovery of dragonshards in Q’Barra reminds me of the California Gold Rush.

    It’s a big territory, and mass prospecting didn’t begin until someone found gold deposits. Once stories of the “mother lode” got out, everyone came running.

  5. Do the other planes have some kind of dragonshard equivalent? Do Siberys shards ever fall to one of the other planes?

  6. Are Eberron dragonshards a renewable resource? As in, do they form similar to our world fossil fuels, or are they made by a different process?

  7. What is it about swamps (Shadow Marches) and jungles (Q’barra) on Khorvaire that leads to such large quantities of Eberron shards?

  8. So will the supply of dragonshards ever run out?
    If so, has anyone begun to make plans for what to do when that happens?

    • I think this was answered before, but I forget where. I recall the answer was something to that they ARE renewing, but at a rate slower than consumption so there’s demand for new sources.

      • I would guess, that since the Progenitor creation myth states taht Eberron and Khyber are still alive, therefore Eberron and Khyber dragonshards are constantly growing. Siberys, on the other hand, is dead, so presumably the quantity of Siberys shards is finite, but since the quantity that has fallen from the Ring remains small relative to the Ring as a whole, there’s no foreseeable danger of them running out. (Though, if in “your” Eberron, Cannith or Lyrandar or Orien have devised ships that can reach the Ring for direct mining purposes, there might be a “peak Siberys shard” crisis in the future.)

        • “dragonshards are constantly growing”

          as in, Dragonshards can start growing out of nowhere?
          or they can grow from other dragonshards as well?

          Maybe both?

          • That’s a question for KB, but in MY Eberron, I’d say that, just as certain parts of the human body secrete different substances, certain parts of the surface world (Eberron’s body) generate Eberron dragonshards, and certain parts of the Underworld (Khyber’s body) generate Khyber drognshards. So…they are widespread, but not under every rock or shrub. I would further argue that shards that have been harvested do not grow or bud new shards – only those that are still in their native environment. On the other hand, I would not be surprised if there were alchemists working for House Cannith or others, trying to come up with a process that could grow new or larger shards from “seed crystals”, using a solution of residuum from damaged or flawed shards. I would further hypothsize that this technology has not yet been perfected in Khorvaire, but that parties of adventurers have been sent into Xen’drik to try to discover whether the giants mihgt have developed the science or to other regions to find rare alchemical ingredients. “I heard that Ifar d’Cannith believes that the proper mixture of elements from each of the Planes can be used to grow dragonshards of unlimited size. He’s recruiting exploratory parties and paying top Galifars for them!”

          • @Chuck Huber – Animal bodies form their excretions (both waste and functional stuff like skin oil) from the food they eat. What are Eberron and Khyber feeding on? Are their crystals (whether they’re more analogous to scales or droppings) forming in a natural process similar to crystals found on Earth, like silicon crystallizing into quartz over the course of eons?

    • Have we figured out what we’ll do when there’s no more oil? Currently there’s no risk of Dragonshards running out tomorrow; there’s still vast deposits in places like Q’barra and the Shadow Marches. Assuming it’s a problem, it’s a problem that will hit decades or centuries down the line, and people aren’t always very good at worrying about those sorts of problems. With that said, there are indications that Khyber and Eberron dragonshards can grow; but this process isn’t entirely understood or predictable.

  9. Going off the question above, is the exploitation of dragonshards something the Ashbound are concerned with?
    Do the Ashbound see dragonshards as “natural” resources to be protected?
    Or perhaps as an arcane taint to be expunged from the natural world?

    • They’re EBERRON dragonshards and formed naturally, so I don’t think the Ashbound would consider them to be unnatural. I think it’s more likely that they consider the industrial use of them to be a violation of nature.

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